The Exquisite Spuria Iris

Spuria Iris 'Hocka Hoona'

Last year, inspired by several visits to Chanticleer, I decided to give Spuria Iris a try.  The Spurias are the result of hybridizing a number of species, including Iris spuria, mostly found around the Mediterranean region.  They are strikingly tall (3-4′) with flowers that look a bit like Dutch Iris on steroids and they have graceful foliage that looks much nicer in a garden bed than the bearded types.  They also flower after the bearded types thereby extending the iris season.  They eventually form a fair sized clump which offers the opportunity to bring them inside where they make good cut flowers.  An excellent background and description on the Spurias can be found at Herbs.com.

For someone who has grown bearded Iris for years the tubers were not impressive when they arrived last September.  There was barely a patch of green showing on each.  The website for the Spuria Iris society says not to expect flowers the first year after transplanting (they don’t like to be moved).  But two of ours did bloom and we are very glad we made room for the Spurias.

Spuria Iris 'Cinnebar Red'

In fact, I think we will be ordering more…

Another new flower for us is Astrantia.

Astrantia 'Sunningdale variegated'

I ordered Astrantia after reading an enthusiastic post on Garden Shoots and I am not disappointed.  An interesting flower, in this case variegated, that plays well with the other plants in our Camellia garden.

We are otherwise looking at the lilies budding up like mad and in some cases already overflowing with flowers.  Especially the Blackout lilies that have dozens of blooms.

Blackout Lilies in quantity

There is a also a push for yellow flowers in other parts of the garden.  The St. John’s Wort is putting on an impressive show now that we have given it some sunlight.

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

The Troillus ‘Golden Queen’ is ruling over a portion of the side yard.

Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’

And finally a new one for us is the Horned Poppy with bright yellow flowers against gray-green foliage.

Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)

However, all is not just flowers on our hilly kingdom.  We have had a record crop of strawberries where the plants are so thick as to exclude most of the weeds.  We just had a wonderful memorial day weekend where we cooked up the rhubarb and strawberries into a luscious cobbler.

Strawberry & Rhubarb ingredients

Strawberry & Rhubarb cobbler

More strawberries and rhubarb have been planted for next year.  Can’t have too much of a really good thing…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for Sept 2011

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since I last posted.  I could say that we’ve been on vacation (multiple times) and otherwise traveling (multiple times), that there have been earthquakes, tropical storms, droughts, and deluges, and that the garden has required tending — and all would be true.  Nonetheless, suffice it to say that there were numerous posts that never got to the typed version but only danced around in my head.  If I stand back and take stock now I am grateful that anything has made it through the gardening year that we’ve had.  After terrible lack of rain in the heat of the summer we got 6.5 inches of rain in the first 8 days of September (the usual average for the month is 3.5 inches).  Think of wet sponge as you walk about the back yard.

One flower that is remarkable for its presence at the moment is the Sweet Autumn Clematis.  It has taken advantage of the caterpillars that decimated the White Double-flowering Cherries this spring and has used the branches as a platform for the most amazing show of white fragrant flowers.

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) closer up

I’m torn between wanting to celebrate this gaudy show and a desire to try for one last save of the cherries (though probably a lost hope at this point).

Elsewhere in the yard the Japanese Anemone ‘September Charm’ is reliably  coming into bloom.

Japanese anemone 'September Charm'

And the Alstroemeria in the front bed have continued to bloom off and on since springtime.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

Also in the front yard is a combination of small dahlias with the hybrid euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ that has turned out to be a good lead-in to the front porch.

Small dahlias and hybrid Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'

As you walk to the back it’s hard not to notice the pyracantha that are fruiting as though there were no tomorrow and growing ever skyward onto and above the deck.

Pyracantha 'Mojave'

Back beside the garage is my comeback plant of the year.  The Loropetalum, which looked dead in early spring (it’s only marginally hardy here), is now looking robust and even tentatively putting forth color at the end of the branches.  Credit to Les at Tidewater Gardener for introducing me to this plant.

Loropetalum

Even further back on the hillside as we come to the plants that we expect to do a lot of self-care, the goldenrod is coming into its yellow glory.  And to think that some people in this household think it’s a weed.

Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’

So I’ll close by suggesting you visit May Dreams Gardens and check out what’s growing other gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  And I’ll try to be a little more consistent in reflecting on what is happening on this hill…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for July 2011

Abundant Lilies

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day again and time to share what is happening around the garden.  I think there are two themes to note in the garden right now.  The lilies have been absolutely spectacular.  The wonderful scent of the big orientals is evident both inside and outside the house at the moment.  You can’t help but notice them as you walk by.  A few years ago we had our best lilies disappear, apparently to some vole-like critter.  We tried to fight back by establishing lilies in other parts of the yard.  And now left-over pieces of those original plantings are coming back and all the other new ones are flourishing as well.  Some of the lilies would be 7 or 8 feet tall if we had managed to stake them and instead they are leaning and interwoven with other plants.  Some of my favorites are these.

Lilium oriental 'Casa Blanca' plant

 

Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Casa Blanca'

 

Lilium Oriental-Triumph hybrid 'Scheherazade' with Joe Pye Weed

 

Scheherazade backlit

 

Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Salmon Star'

 

Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Muscadet'

 

The other gardening element that just shines this time of year is the front rock garden where the mix of perennials is in constant flux but seems to be especially floriferous right now.

Front Rock Garden

It’s hard not to share it from different angles

Front Rock Garden 2nd view

Or to want to point out the different elements that make up this garden like the Shasta Daisies

Shasta Daisies 'Becky'

or the Agastache ‘Tutti-Frutti’ returning for it’s 4th season.

Agastache 'Tutti-frutti'

The color of this agastache is very close to the persian cornflower that is so happy that I’ve now given it a place in the sunshine instead of the semi-shade where it persisted but hardly flowered.

Persian Cornflower 'Centaurea dealbata'

Another piece of that front bed is the yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass.

Yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass (Nassella tenuissima)

And rising in the midst of the yarrow and ponytail grass is a nice stand of alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’ which is taller than almost anything else in the bed.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

In the back camellia garden there is a nice combination of echinacea and geranium.

Echinacea purpea 'White Swan' and Geranium 'Rozanne'

This is right next to what I thought was some 3 foot high late iris.  It turns out that it is blackberry lily that has self-seeded to a very inappropriate place at the front of the bed.

Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

Let me close with a view of the peaches out in the orchard (life is not about flowers alone, though one can make a good argument for that proposition).

Red Haven Peaches

 

 

 

A Moving Experience

Dusk on the Hill

The latest Gardening Gone Wild Photo Challenge involves motion of various sorts in the garden.  The specific theme “Show the Motion” discusses how you can set out to use motion to enhance your normal photos in the garden.  Following the judge’s suggestions I set out at dusk one evening to see if the camera, tripod and I could capture the fireflies that dance around the garden in the evening.  One of the by-products of wandering around the hillside in the evening with a tripod is that you get a wonderful light on the flowers just as the sun is going down.  The colors are exceptionally strong without being blown out as they would be in mid-day.

Rock Garden at Dusk

Rose Garden at Dusk with Luxor Lilies

It turns out that the time period during which you can shoot with a long exposure, still get the garden elements, and let the fireflies dance is fairly limited — about 1/2 an hour.  I tried various exposures, zoom levels, ISO’s, etc. but the difficulty is you can’t really see and appreciate the arcing tracks of the fireflies until you return to the computer.  In the end it’s a very random thing as to whether the fireflies will actually choose to light up in sync with your camera, but it’s fun to try!  For example here is a shot from the front rock garden in which you can see three streaks of golden light.

Fireflies in Rock Garden

Another was on the hillside with clear arcs of color.

Fireflies above Coreopsis

In the end my favorite shot of the night came on the side of the hill with the pasture as backdrop and the False Sunflowers  in the foreground.  This picture was taken in the near-dark and it’s only by the magic of digital photography that fireflies appear as golden streaks of fairy dust in what looks like daylight.   This will be my submission for the GGW photo contest.

Fireflies and Hillside Garden

I also need to give some praise to the Luxor lilies which are flowering on six foot stems right now.

Asiatic Lily 'Luxor'

And I’m becoming a fan of the Walcroy Crocosmia which is an outstanding gold color to match the daylillies in the front yard.

Crocosmia 'Walcroy'

I should mention in passing that this is harvest time for the garlic.  I’ve strung several large bundles from the rafters in the garage.

Garlic (Kettle River Giant) hung to dry

And the blueberries are doing their annual thing.  I always look at them in the spring thinking that there really aren’t very many blossoms and maybe it will be an off year.  Then, come harvest time, the bushes yield abundantly and there are more to pick than we really have time for.  Beth has made a couple of full-size blueberry tarts that have been delicious.  It looks like we will be freezing berries again…

Blueberries picked last night from one of seven bushes

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day May 2011

Tree Peony deluxe...

It’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for May and what could be better to lead off this posting than a Peony that has never flowered for me before.  I’ve had the above Tree Peony for a number of years but it’s in a sort of shady spot and has never yielded a blossom before.  And I’ve no idea what variety but I was entranced to see how pretty it is.  I’ve cut off some overhanging branches and I hope to see further blossoms in the future.  It’s been a particularly good year for the peonies.  All of our Tree Peonies have bloomed at this point – purple, pink, white and yellow.  It’s been a feast for the eyes…

Purple Tree Peony

Light Pink Tree Peony

White Tree Peony

Even without flowering the Tree Peonies are special with their elegant foliage that is a multi-month pleasure.  In between the Tree Peonies and the normal Herbaceous Hybrids are the Itoh Hybrids.  I bought several a few years ago in small size (I’ve seen blooming sized versions priced at $100, although the prices are coming down).  Anyway they never bloomed before and we had to make do with their lovely foliage.  But this year they are all coming in with flowers.  The first two are shown below.  Beth has put one in the downstairs bath so that we give it full appreciation.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Singing in the rain is so appropos.

I can see that I’m not going to have time to mention all the flowers in bloom right now but a few special ones of note include the Lady Slipper Orchid ‘Gisela Pastel’ and a few others that are first time bloomers for us.

Cypripedium 'Gisela Pastel'

Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica)

Exbury Hybrid Azalea 'Klondyke'

And then there are a few of the favorites for this time of year.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum)

Clematis 'Waterfall'

Alliums, Centaurea, and Salvia with a backdrop of Buttercups

Bearded Iris 'Fatal Attraction'

And in one final note, even though the vegetable garden is hopelessly delayed by the frequent rainfall, the strawberries have had a field day and we are harvest beauties right now…

First strawberry 'Earliglow'

A Few Flowers Survive

Ptilotus 'Platinum Wallaby'

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and I had to look hard for worthy flowers that had survived our desert-like summer.  We had another rain today so perhaps I won’t have to look quite so hard next month.  The Ptilotus shown above has a beautiful fuschia color to the flowers, but the actual plant is pretty pathetic.  Whether it’s the dry weather or just the nature of the beast in Maryland is hard to say.  I doubt if it’s going to survive over the winter.  In the same front-yard garden the Gaura have been in constant flower since spring.

White Gaura blossom

The flowers float 2-3 ft above the ground and look like an assembly of butterflies as the flutter in the breeze.  This is the third year for this plant and we’ve come to really appreciate the effect that the Gaura have over such an extended period.  Also worth noting in the front-yard garden is the Mexican Yellow-Eyed Grass from Plant Delights.  I planted it this year from a small 4  inch pot and it has prospered.  It flowered over much of the spring, well into June, and the foliage is lush and very much like a small iris, about 12-15 inches tall.  If this survives over the winter here it is going to be a really winner.

Sisyrinchium tinctorium foliage

While we are on a yellow theme we are still getting a few glads out of the garden.  They are very much smaller and fewer than we should have had based on the early growth.  But hey, we take what we can get.

Gladiolus remnant

And here there is a rose still to be found, in this case Charles Darwin from David Austin.

Charles Darwin Rose

One bright spot in the yard is provided by the Butterfly Weed.

Asclepias tuberosa

There are also quite a few Sunflowers coming into bloom in the garden.  They are all the Mammoth Russian type, but not so mammoth as usual.  The other multi-colored ones didn’t survive the drought.  I find the insides of the Sunflowers to be really interesting.  I need to do further study of their variations…

Sunflower center

One of the few bushes to be prospering despite the heat and lack of water is the Caryopteris.  The flowers are not fully open yet, but you can see what is coming.

Caryopteris in flower

I’m also beginning to appreciate the long season of the sedums.  Beth moved them into a sunnier spot this year and we have nice flower heads in bud.

Sedum (I think it's 'Autuum Joy') Flower head

Let me close with a picture of one of the Apples from my newer trees.  They’ve been slow to fruit because of the deer damage.  This year I used ‘Liquid Fence’ and we at least have a few apples in the second pasture.  They are small but as I said earlier we’ll take what we can get and be gratetful.

Kidd's Orange-Red

What was going to be a bumper crop of apples overall has been drastically reduced by fruit dropping this month and the remainders are smaller than usual.  Lest I sound too discouraged, I am, as I write, eating ice cream with blueberries from the multiple gallons that we froze.  So you win some and you lose some.  I encourage you to visit May Dreams Gardens and see what other gardens are producing this month.

Blackout

Asiatic Lily 'Blackout'

Well the title of this post might be referring to the news blackout from this site since I’ve been so delinquent in posting, but actually it’s the exceptional lily shown above.  This came as a gift from the kids last year and it has rapidly become a highlight in the two garden spots where it’s planted.  The color just jumps out and the bulbs seem to be spreading fast.

Blackout lilies against the roses

My only excuse for not posting more is the way all the plants and weeds insist on growing whenever we take a trip.  Just playing catch up has been taking a lot of time.  I think that once we get into the harvest mode that’s one more thing that takes a lot of time from the gardening staff (mainly me).

Blueberries ripening up

This has been such a strange season.  I don’t remember strawberries, cherries, and blueberries all coming in at the same time before.  We had a great strawberry crop lasting over 5 weeks and just now coming to an end.  The snowpeas and sugar peas have been equally abundant, leading to a heavy concentration of peas in every meal.  And now the blueberries are doing their thing forcing us to stock up on ice cream and yoghurt.

There are so many gardening items that I meant to comment on but which will now have to wait for future consideration.  Worth mentioning is that we have somehow acquired a beautiful white azalea which is much, much later than our more common types.

White Azalea is striking

This one has amazingly large flowers, as big as I have seen on an azalea.

Late flowering White Azalea

Another planting worthy of note comes from seeds obtained as a part of the American Horticultural Society Seed Exchange last year.  I dutifully planted out the Digitalis thapsi seedlings not knowing quite what to expect.

Foxglove (Digitalis thapsi) 'Spanish Peaks'

It turns out to be a lovely compact Foxglove which plays well with others in the perennial gardens.  To my mind it’s a bit nicer than the larger and more common Foxgloves.

Foxglove 'Spanish Peaks' in the garden

Highly recommended!  I especially liked this image that I grabbed with my iPhone that shows how the pink flowers and yellow buds combine in the same plant.

Foxglove 'Spanish Peak

Wrapping up the Harvest

Freezing Tomatoes

Freezing Tomatoes

We are about to take off to hiking in the Northwest for a week and so we’re gathering in some more of the harvest before we go.  The soups, sauces, and tomato supper dishes were not keeping up with the influx so we’ve taken to freezing the tomatoes.  Much like we do with blueberries, the tomatoes are simply cored and spread on a cookie sheet to freeze and then we take those rock solid red tennis balls and put them in plastic bags.   Then at some point we will add those tomatoes to tomato-based sauces this winter.

One of the fruits reaching the harvest point right now are the Japanese Pears.

Japanese Pears fully ripe

Japanese Pears fully ripe

This a tree we often call Josh’s miracle tree for the spectacular recovery it made from a near death experience.  The full story will be told at a later date…  Suffice it to say for now that this is a consistent yielder of fully organic, no-need-to-spray fruit.  The flavor will never match a good Doyenné du Comice Pear, but you can’t have everything…

The Japanese Pear is a prolific bearer every year

The Japanese Pear is a prolific bearer every year

I should have mentioned earlier that the early mums that we get every year are doing their thing and have been out for at least a month.  Don’t know why they come so early but we won’t complain.

Early blooming Chrysanthemum

Early blooming Chrysanthemum

This is a good time of the year for butterflies and dragonflies.  I noticed one odd looking dragonfly the other day and I now realize that it’s quite common.  In fact it’s known as the ‘Common Whitetail’.  Nonetheless it is quite distinctive to look at.

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

We’ve just had two days of rainfall (finally!) but I went out one of the hot dry days before that and dug a new Iris bed.

Tilling a new Iris bed

Tilling a new Iris bed

I really went for overkill but who knows what else can go in this sunny spot before we get enough Iris to fill it.  At the moment we only have an additional 9 Iris from Schreiners and several from our Boston connection but once I was into digging I had to complete the row.  It was very dry but I persisted with the plow attachment on the roto-tiller and then filled the trench with water and repeated the process.  I think I could have used the sweat from my drenched tee-shirt to soften the ground as well.  I followed by filling the new trench with compost and then doing it all over again.  Even with all of that it would probably be good to let the remainder lie fallow and do it again next year but we shall have to see what else needs planting in the interim…

On the bird front we had a cute little visitor the other morning.  My guess is a Yellow-Throated Vireo but I’m open to other interpretations.

Yellow-Throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

Yellow-Throated Vireo? (Vireo flavifrons)

And let me close this post with another image of the Northern Sea Oats.  The world can simply not have enough of these beautiful plants which look different in every kind of light.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)