Saturday, May 30, 2015

Serious Plant Foe Flattens Garden

After too many years and too many leaks, we finally decided to have our roof replaced. The first day was "tear off" day, when a dozen guys with shovels and digging forks showed up to remove the rotten portions of our roof and put it all into the dumpster that took up a major portion of our driveway.
I and our two terriers became self-evacuated refugees from the home and onto our sailboat, where we would spend the day just hanging out while Dave offered support to the crew.

I should have found a way to stay--at least to witness the placing of the tarps. It seems that contractors who work on structures already surrounded by landscaping should go through a certain level of sensitivity training. Sensitivity toward living organisms, that is.

The "before" photo taken a week before the tarp arrived.
"We'll clean up any mess from the roof debris," said the boss. "Your yard will look just as good as it does before we start. Maybe even better."

He went on to tell me how they had built a special box to cover one customer's prized maple tree. He made me feel confident there would be no damage. Besides, Dave knows about plants. He would be on hand to make sure it would all be okay.

My first inkling that there might be something amiss came in a phone conversation that went something like this:

Me: "How are my plants?"
Dave: "Everything's fine."
He was obviously hiding something, so I pushed on.
Me: "How are the plants closest to the house? The peonies, how is 'White Cap'?"
Dave: "Fine."
I knew avoidance when I heard it.
Me: "So nothing flew off the roof and struck a plant, thereby bending/breaking/killing any stem within a half mile radius of the roof?"
Dave: "No. The tarps protected them."
Me: Tarps? What kind of tarps? Cloth? Lightweight? Are they touching the plants?"
The day was very sunny and temperatures were in the low 80s. Plastic tarps would have the potential of literally cooking anything they touched.
Dave: "Just a couple are having some difficulties."
Me: "What exactly do you mean, difficulties?"
Dave: "They're a little bit droopy from the weight of the tarp but they'll recover."
I couldn't help but envision my entire garden laid flat, once-tall plants cowering from the threat of the evil tarp. I wanted to know more. I wanted pictures. And it was possible I wanted someone's head on a platter.
Me: "Really? Which ones?"
I could tell he was getting a little edgy and wanted to get off the phone.
Dave: "I've been trying to keep the house from catching fire, so I've been a little busy!"
I pictured a roaring fire bursting through the roof faster than they could nail shingles.
Me: "So, why would the house be catching on fire?"
Dave: "They're using so much equipment they're blowing circuits every few minutes."
I had to hand it to him for his ability to throw in that whiplash move. But I just wanted to know about my plants.

Here is what I found when I came home:

All three Lilium 'Eyeliner' were burned but might still bloom.

Peony 'Green Halo' was looking great but won't bloom.

A couple dozen peony buds looked like this.
Some of the damaged plants will bloom, but won't be pretty because of the damaged foliage. The peonies that burned opened but their petals were brown. The lily that I was so excited about seeing again this year lost more than half its stem. And the Hydrangea macrophylla had just been getting started before it was squashed beneath the heavy tarp.
Here's what's left of a Hydrangea macrophylla. It will recover slowly.

The rare Lilium 'Lankon' in its second year.

I feel I should say the roof looks great. But although it's too late for some of these plants (at least for this season), I hope you will be on hand when your roofers, siders, or whoever is working on your house drags out the all-purpose tarp and drapes it over your plants for "protection."
'Lankon' (last year) might not even survive.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

You're stranded on a deserted island...

Are there certain plants you've grown that you just wouldn't do without? In the realm of easy care and great looks throughout the summer, I've got several, but these jump to the front of my list.

Epimedium 'Bandit'
For those shaded spots beneath the trees, I would certainly want Epimedium, in this case 'Bandit' for its distinctive leaves and prolific flowers.

Shade should call attention to itself, and this can best be done with foliage. I love chartreuse and I love variegation, both of which seem to whisper, "Hey, you! Come on over here. I want to show you something up close."

Against a deep green yew, Chartreuse and variegated green and cream beg a closer look. 

The closer look: Brunnera 'Hadspen Cream' in foreground with Dicentra 'Gold Heart'.

Up close is where I'm drawn when I see colors like those on several cultivars of Geum in my garden. Examples of the Cocktail series by Intrinsic Perennials, includes 'Alabama Slammer', 'Tequila Sunrise', 'Mai Tai', and 'Cosmopolitan'. From a distance or at a glance, they all might look similar. But these plants are great at their job - brightening up the lower levels and rewarding close inspection with bright, watercolor blends on each tiny petal.
Geum 'Tequila Sunrise'
Their colors are so subtle and unique, and they blend so well to form a flower that is positively intoxicating. I'm guessing that's what the plants' developer and owner of Intrinsic Perennials, Brent Horvath was thinking, hence the series names.
Geum 'Cosmopolitan'
Geum 'Alabama Slammer'
Geum 'Mai Tai'
Full disclosure: Brent sent me samples to try, plus one called 'Banana Daquiri' to try in spring, 2012. They've come through three winters without a hitch. I killed 'Banana Daquiri' when I moved it too late in the fall, not allowing for its roots to become established before winter set in. Brent also is the author of The Plant Lover's Guide to Sedums. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Variety Makes A Spicy Container Garden

My well-laden cart at Sunrise Greenhouse
Although I haven't found a support group for people like me--those who lack the discipline to buy at least three of every plant I like--it is a syndrome with some great work-arounds. I come home from every plant buying foray with one of each plant I want, and if I want more of a particular variety I have to find it at the next garden center I visit.

And of course there will be other garden centers. We were the first customers at Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL. I'm really not certain of this, but the benches weren't fully loaded and I think we were the only people in there who weren't employees. The most unusual selection I made there was the pair of Gerbera jamesonii Mega Revolution Champagne. Despite their huge popularity, I've never grown them. Or if I did, they didn't do well. So we shall see...
I also picked up several begonias, a Ti plant, and 20-some other plants.

Three weeks later my planting buddy (who happens to be my next-door neighbor) and I drove up to Vite Greenhouses in Buchanan MI.

 I used the Sunvillea 'Rose Dwarf' as a component in a large container.

Thanks to my plant buddy, Lesley, I got the last of the Sunvillea™ 'Rose Dwarf'. Bougainvilleas. This is an extremely compact Bougainvillea that filled a hanging pot and was selling for $25. We were in line for the checkout and playing our game of guess the cart total. I'd already weighed in at $170; she at $150 when I saw the display of tropical bloomers. After determining I'd just spent nearly $200 on my SECOND big plant shopping trip, the $25 price tag seemed a bit steep.

I'd mentioned to Lesley earlier that it was Dave's and my 28th wedding anniversary. She bought it for us as an anniversary gift!

Vites also had a nice selection of Coleus, a plant that I use a lot in mixed containers. I select them based on flower colors that I combine them with to create a more cohesive container.

Can you say Coleus? Six plants of four varieties.
"I wish I'd brought a list of what I already have," I told Lesley several times as we trolled the aisles at Vites. It was like trying to put an outfit together without having at least one of the pieces with you.

I kept to the chartreuse shades, hoping they would go with the shade/part sun-loving plants I'd already bought from Sunrise.

I might have chosen differently if I'd had snapshots of the plants I was trying to coordinate, but I'll try to remember to do that next time.

Side planter with forks as helpers for the Lobelia and Alyssum.
I found some annuals available in flat sizes, so I picked up a mix of Snapdragons, Lobelia, Celosia, Coleus and alyssum. I planned to fill my PamelaCrawford  side planter this year after letting it sit idle last season. The side planting holes need the smaller-sized rootballs that plants grown in flats offer.

I used Lobelia, Coleus and alyssum, jamming in a few plastic forks to hold them in place and keep them from literally being washed out in a heavy rain.

My love of container gardening fits in with my penchant for purchasing just one of everything. Repetition is a good thing in design, but I have much more fun trying something new every year.