Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The beauty that is Clematis

I love Clematis. It is my favorite among all of my plants. I have several of them, 6 varieties at the moment, totaling 10 plants so far.

This is Clematis Multi-Blue. I have heard people say that they thought Clematis didn't like being transplanted, but I transplanted this from my old place with no difficulties at all. It grows to 8' tall, is hardy in zones 3-9, has medium sized double flowers in mid-season and may rebloom in early autumn.
Meet Mrs. James Mason. Although not very visible in this picture, she has a red bar running down each petal. She grows 8-10' tall and is hardy in zones 4-9. This one too, was transplanted from my old place.
This is Nelly Moser. Pale pink with darker pink striped petals. She grows 6-9' and I think even higher. Hardy in zones 4-9. I transplanted this one from my moms yard many years ago to my old place, and then, in the middle of summer, transplanted it once again to our new place. Super durable!
This is Clematis Jackmanii. This too was transplanted from my old place. It grows 9-13' tall with medium sized flowers and is hardy in zones 3-9.
Ahhh, the wonderfully fragrant fall blooming Sweet Autumn Clematis. This is a biggie, growing 16-22' tall. This was given to me by my gardening friend Diane while I lived at my old place. It too was transplanted here. It is hardy zones 5-9. I have 5 of these now.
And last, but certainly not least, is H.F. Young. I have two of these and it is my favorite. I love the brilliant lavender blue color and it blooms its head off. It grows 6-9' tall, has big beautiful blooms and is hardy in zones 4-9. I really love this one.

I have seeds for several more varieties, but I have no idea what they are. Seeds that were given to me or that I have requested. All I know at this point is that they have purple flowers. I have winter sown them all, hoping that I will get at least one from each type seed. It does not bother me that I don't know what they are, because even if they are the same types that I have, I will enjoy them all. I really love Clematis and hope to double my amount of them this year. They are so simple to grow and so beautiful! I recommend browsing the following web sites for additional resources.
American Clematis Society

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ok, enough of the snow and winter...bring on Spring

Snow, snow, go away
Come again next Christmas day

Snow, snow, melt away
Send the coldness far away

Spring, spring, come today
A gardener wants to dig today

Spring, spring, oh hear me say
Let the sunshine come this way

Snow, snow, go away
A gardener wants to plant today.

There are so many Cardinals here right now that the color that they bring to the winter garden is like the first flowers of Spring.

This is a Junco, we have a large amount of them. I have never seen (or never noticed) them around here before.

This little Junco is using this feeder as shelter against the wind. It was only 15 degrees when I took these pictures....brrrrrr....

As you can see, I have received quite a selection of seed, plant and gardening catalogs. I look through them over and over again. I have a list of favorites -do to how well it is put together, how well the pictures are presented, the quantity of pictures, the information given.
Here they are, not in any particular order, because I like them equally well:

1. Architectural Plants -this wonderful pamphlet from the U.K. has the most spectacular photographs of offered European, Asian, and exotic architectural plants. I don't think they ship plants to the U.S., but they did send me the catalog.

2. Wilkerson Mill Gardens -a beautiful catalog filled with Hydrangeas. I really want General Vic.

3. Select Seeds -Heirloom treasures for modern gardens. Lots of wonderful flower and foliage pictures to make you drool.

4. Logee's -these are mostly tropical plants that I would have to drag in every fall. So many beauties. Southern gardeners sure have the luck!

5. Musser Forests, Inc. -A wide variety of trees, trees and more trees. You can buy one or buy in bulk. A fantastic catalog for tree lovers.

6. van Bourgondien -More beautiful pictures. These are mostly bulbs and what a great selection, Canna, day lily, dahlia, and loads more.

7. Oakes Daylilies -WOW what a selection. Whodathunk there were so many gorgeous daylilies. I didn't used to be a fan until I got this catalog. I really like Dream Blue, Ilonka, Lavender Vista, and Persian Market.

8. Heronswood Nursery -This is one of the best among catalogs. It is thick and has big pictures. Lots of great photographs of lots of great looking rare and exotic plants. I would like to take a trip to Pennsylvania just to wander the Nursery I think.

9. Plant Delights Nursery, Inc -More spectacular photos. Whoever takes their pictures does great work. Makes you feel like you are there. The plant descriptions are super entertaining too and the covers are works of art. Unfortunately, mine came without the cover, didn't make it through the post office too well.

I have found that many nurseries are going away from the printed catalog, or beginning to charge a fee for one. This is a big disappointment to me and probably many others. One of the joys of winter is running to the mailbox to see what plants I get to look at that evening. Puts me on a sort of vacation for a few hours. I hope companies will reconsider this. I don't like paying for a catalog (okay, yes, I did once pay $7.95 for Stokes Tropical Plant Guide/Catalog many years ago. I have kept it, because it is more like an encyclopedia and well worth every penny!), I would rather spend the money on plants or gardening supplies instead.

Friday, January 26, 2007

SPRING IS IN THE AIR... least it looks like spring on my kitchen counter.

I went to see my friend Diane, to share my wealth of seeds with and she was kind enough to send me home with several plant starts. Two types of Begonia and also a Jade plant. Several of the Begonia starts already had roots forming and I finally got around to potting them up last evening and also the Jade. They are all very beautiful! The mother Begonia plants that Diane has are absolutely huge, each being around 18" tall, possibly a full 2 foot. I cannot recall how long she has had them, but she has wonderful green thumbs.

The other side of the sink holds more plants. Water irises and water grass transplanted from my old pond (I haven't dug a new one yet, so these are waiting a permanent home), more Begonias, the Jade, and a Poinsettia I rescued from my friend Pam, who was getting ready to throw it in the trash. Pam on the other, only has one green tinted thumb!

I am also attempting to start 2 avacados, one just happens to sit nicely in the top of a champagne glass and the other being suspended in a vase with plastic wrap. These are nice alternatives to using toothpicks, which I have never had very good luck with.

The pineapple top is sitting there drying out so it too can be planted in another day or so. After cutting it off of the fruit, I pulled away the lower leaves to expose many roots started. Once the cut area is dried, I will plant it up and hope for the best. This is the first time I have tried this method. The last attempt I made resulted in a rotted plant, because I had no idea about pulling the lower leaves away or letting the cut seal first. I literally cut it off the fruit and just stuck it in dirt. Live and learn...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Winter has really arrived

After many extremely light dustings, we have finally gotten our first snow this winter. I am somewhat disappointed, I was kind of looking forward to being able to say that we went an entire winter without snow. But that is okay, Chris and the boys are out enjoying this hill right now, sledding and snow boarding. We had around 3 inches, enough for them to get the toys out.

One good thing about the snow is the ability to see the wildlife much easier. The deer tracks are everywhere. The birds are flocking to the feeders. So many birds that I have had to refill the feeders more frequently. I was also able to put out the suet cakes that I made earlier in the season. The temperatures have been to warm to put them out until now.
We have a 3 legged deer making a home on our property. We haven't seen her up close to figure the situation out. It doesn't get around as if it was born that way, sort of gimpy. But it is nicely fat, suggesting it gets around well enough to eat. It is quite amazing to watch.

My Amaryllis is really starting to take off. See the big fat flower bud? In the two days since this picture was taken, it has gotten even bigger. I am getting more excited to see it bloom!

My Zygocactus (aka Christmas Cactus and sometimes also called Holiday Cactus) is blooming again. It sure does have pretty blooms and once it starts, it will bloom for quite awhile. It is also quite easy to take starts from it, just break off one of the flat pieces and stick it in dirt. I have also found my cat River gnawing on it and it has survived him. Very durable, as most cacti are.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On gardening journals and databases....

I have tried to maintain a gardening journals every year for awhile now. I'm not very good at it. I always have great intentions. I see a beautiful gardening journal at the book store and have to buy it, usually in the winter. I start out with great intentions, I list all my plants or the seeds that I winter sow, but once spring hits and the gardening time gets busy, the journal is left behind. I do keep tags and seed packs and am pretty good at writing the date planted or sowed on them.

This past summer I decided to start an Excel journal. This worked out much better for me. I was able to put a digital picture with each listing, with growing information, planting location, etc. Problem with the Excel file though, it grew so huge that it took forever to open, forever to save. I did everything I could to reduce the file size, but with 102 tabs totalling 17,599 kb, it was just to much. I transferred everything over into Power Point, which took a lot of time, but it is much more efficient. It is also quite nice to be able to open it in a presentation and just watch all the images of flowers. The first three pages of the presentation are a preview of all my plants, or plants that I am starting by winter sowing or direct sowing.
I still have an Excel file, I call it my Bloom Calendar. It lists 130 trees and plants (this isn't complete either!) and has columns for each month. I printed this out and have hand written in all of the bloom dates, plus any additional information relating to winter sowing dates, etc. I still need to copy all of this information into the file on the computer. It is quite handy to look at it and see which months I have the least amount of things blooming, that way I know that I need to get. It would be quite nice if there was a way to integrate the Excel file with the Power Point presentation. Then I could click on a listing in the Bloom Calendar and it would take me directly to the plant listing in the Power Point database. Maybe there is way to do this? Maybe some nice person will come along and tell me how to do it!

Anyway, I give the electronic "journal" much more attention than the hand written journals. I'm not good at printing out pictures, so the written journals were quite bare. On the other hand, I would love to print out the database, but I think I would have to take it somewhere and pay an arm and a leg, rather than use up multiple ink cartriges for my "book". It is growing, my Power Point journal, so much so that it really has taken on a life of its own. It is great to put in comments about the plants, where they came from, how well they perform, whether I like it or not. I even have notes to rip some plants out come spring (like Yellow Loosestrife, although very colorful, I do not like it!). Power Point is somehow much more efficient with its data than Excel, the database, with 135 pages containing 67,736 kb of information, is quick to open, quick to save, and quick to close.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


According to The National Arbor Day Foundation, my hardiness zone went from 5b to 6. Between 1996 and 2006 the warmer climate has made a difference. This doesn't come as a surprise, I have suspected that I was in a microclimate that allowed me to grow zone 6 plants. This is exciting news for me. This makes the range of plants I can look at so much broader.

Of course, I suppose that they could change all of the plant information to reflect the zone changes. Will a plant that was once hardy in zone 6 now only be hardy to zone 7? Or is the zone just expanded and no difference really for the plant itself? I guess really it is all trial and error, just as gardening has always been and will continue to be.

Theme Gardening is not something I have really thought too much about, but after all of my garden planning and planting, I have come to realize that my own garden theme is a Blue Garden. I have been carefully cultivating plants which only have flowers that are shades of blue, blue-purple. This is my favorite color. It is the color of spring, my favorite season. It is a cool color, which is refreshing in the summer. It looks fantastic with green (my other favorite color). As I sort through hundreds of packs of seeds for winter sowing and direct sowing, I automatically snatch up all of the blue/purple flowering seeds and keep them to try out. The seeds that will never make it into my gardens have white or yellow flowers. These are my least favorite colors, especially white. I know there are many great attributes to these colors, especially for brightening up shade beds, but white reminds me of snow and cold and sterility. NO THANKS. And I just don't like yellow because it is a fall color and drab to me. I can do some orange and red here and there and like pink okay, but blue and purple are the best.

Onto a sad note, our beloved Buckeyes lost the championship game. What a stunning blow to all of us. Like many, I spent yesterday in mourning, in shock and disbelief. I didn't sleep worth a darn Monday night, I kept waking to Hang on Sloopy running through my mind over and over again. I feel the worst for the team. Especially the seniors who can't try again next year for the perfect season. I greatly appreciate all that they did this season though and still hold my head up high. Thanks team, it has been a great season.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Winter is back....

The mama Amaryllis bulb is starting to grow! I noticed it yesterday. So, it took 19 days...not bad at all. All of the babies except one have growth also. Having to cram all of my gardening into one pot of bulbs is pretty pathetic, ha ha!

Yesterday Chris and I were able to go do some hiking for a couple of hours. The creek was so full that we were unable to cross at our normal rock path, it was under water.

We walked down and up the creek trying to find a spot low enough, but didn't have any luck. We ended up straddling a couple of fallen trees and carefully worked our way across. Falling into that cold water did not seem appealing now that the temperatures have dropped back down to near normal. We both made it across okay and made our way to the dam. They were letting a lot of water out. The river was swollen over its banks in some of the lower locations. We crossed the dam and followed the levee east until we reached the road that runs into the wild life area. We followed the road south until we came to our road and then followed it home. It was raining through most of our hike, but we were bundled up pretty good, so it wasn't too bad. It was just great to get out for awhile.

Today is much cooloer, only 36 degrees. It is okay, because by Saturday it is supposed to be back in the mid-40's! We are supposed to wake up tomorrow morning to an inch or two of snow. I guess that will be okay, since we haven't had any yet.

Before I forget, I did get some more winter sowing done. Eight more containers. These seeds included:
Candy Lily- 1 container
West Texas Sage- 1 container
Monarda Prarie Night- 1 container
Anise Hyssop- 1 container
Polemonium Caeruleum- 1 container
Various unknown types of blue or purple Clematis- 3 containers.

I have two tempered glass refridgerater shelves that I have been saving for awhile. I took them out and placed them over the areas where I sowed the lettuce and spinach. Hopefully with this cooler weather, they will act as a sort of cold frame for them. An experiment, we'll see what happens.

Well, I do have one non-gardening note. Today is the Championship game between Ohio State and Florida. I hung both my flags today and am wearing my scarlet and gray, including my socks! It will be an awesome game and of course, I certainly hope Troy Smith takes them all the way.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Is this Indian Summer or an early Spring?

Yesterday morning when I woke, I pulled my curtains open like always. The full moon showed the outline of a raccoon right outside my bedroom window. It was all stretched out with its head in one of my bird feeders. This particular feeder is only a couple foot off of the ground. I have never had any issues with critters until now. I tapped on the window and nothing. I opened the window and it continued to eat. I finally had to yell at it and it finally took off. So I raised the feeder yesterday to 6 foot off of the ground and refilled it.

This morning when I pulled my curtains open, I did not see a racoon, but instead there was a skunk! It was only a couple feet away from my window, just sitting under the eaves, perhaps trying to stay out of the rain. This creature waddles away when I opened the window (trepidly, in case it decided to spray!) and ran once my husband shined a flashlight on it.

We do not usually see skunks around here (I mean, smell skunks around here) until mid-March. These animals hibernate, so I was quite surprised to see it.

It is not unusual to see animals out the bedroom window. One morning last spring I opened the curtains and stared right into the eyes of a deer! It was quite a shock to both of us!

The things that are going on around here is just incredible! Thank you El Nino, once again! I know this is going to wreak havoc on the summer, probably will make the mosquitoes unbearable, but I would rather deal with those nasty buggers than the cold and snow.

It is 9:30 am EST here, and it is 58 degrees!! I took a little walk around the yard and here is what I have found:

Sedums greening up. This plant normally goes so dormant that you wouldn't even know it exists!

Tall garden Phlox budding up and ready to bloom!

Purple Mist Shrub trying to leaf out.

Sweet Autumn Clematis leafing out!

Geraniums all greened up too.

Buds on a Flowering Quince.

Tulips pushing up through the ground.

I know that many of these things are going to be hurt when we finally do get a cold snap, but you know what? It is rare around here to have flowers in January, and I will take them regardless of the outcome! This warm weather isn't going to kill everything, I will still have flowers come the real Spring. And Summer will still be spectacular!

Those of us who despise winter and get depressed during the long gray dreary months are getting a rare reprieve. Thank you Mother Nature....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New growth, mild weather, and a new year

Well, two of the babies on the Amaryllis already have new growth. One began on the 31st and has 1 1/2 inches of growth already. The other just began yesterday and has maybe a half inch of growth. I am excited! It is kept in a warm, sunny location in the house. I think this helps a lot.

The mild weather has been great! I have been getting more work done outdoors. I dug up and moved 18 Forsythia along our side lane. They are going to be beautiful in a few years when they have grown thick.

I transplanted many Grape Muscari. They are very plentiful, so I moved lots of them to a spot on the south end of the house, by a stone wall path. There are already several planted there and I also sowed some Chiondoxia seeds there in the fall.

In that same location, I put in some plastic edging on Sunday. It was such a beautiful day. The soil felt warm to my fingers, I was not wearing gloves! It will be nice for my husband Chris to be able to mow right up to the edging now without having to get the weed wacker out. I will also not have to continue to pull the grass away from the first step.

On the wild hillside, I got out there and cleared a spot below a maple tree and moved a bench that I made out there. It overlooks Norris Run, our creek, and the Delaware State Park. The view is beautiful. I direct sowed Blue Flax, my favorite flower, all around it. This may also be a good deer viewing location, it is near one of the paths that they use, but not too close.

Speaking of bulbs, our Lowe's has the remaining bulbs hidden in the garden section 50% off. I got a couple packs of Blue Delft Hyacinths and some purple Alliums and also planted those. Maybe 80 bulbs.

I am so excited I can hardly wait to see the explosion of blooms here in three months. It seems so far away, but with this mild weather, if I can keep going out and do some gardening, it is going to be here in no time at all!