Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sunny Perennial Bed -- Back Garden "Creep Year"

Exactly a year ago on the last day of June I did a post about the sunny perennial bed in my back garden. If you're interested, you can read it here. I planted this bed up last year with small one-year old plants that I ordered online from Bluestone Perennials and from Santa Rosa Gardens, and with seedlings that I had started that year from seed. There was lots of room left.

Not any more.

 The bed facing East

Holy Moly! If this is creeping, what will it look like next year, in its "Leap Year?"

Actually, I already know it will look different. There are things about it that I don't like, now that some of the plants are bigger and flowering. (Always changing, the garden is, said Yoda.)

The Lupines had aphids on them, which I sprayed with Pyrethrin. I wish now that I had gone to the nursery to buy ladybugs. The aphids are gone, but the Pyrethrin left the flowers looking ratty. And I don't know if it was the aphids, or slugs, or earwigs, but the foliage looks ratty too (it already looked ratty before I sprayed).

Ratty Lupine foliage

So I'm thinking, since Lupines are short-lived perennials anyway, that once the seedpods mature, I will pull them out and replace them with tall Joe-Pye weed. Something really dramatic, and structural and tall, so that the back row won't all be one level.

Another problem I have found with this bed -- poppies are floppy. 
 Floppy Oriental Poppy foliage

More floppy Oriental Poppy foliage

I want to keep them (I've heard that since they have long taproots, they are almost impossible to move anyway). So next year I'll have to figure out a way to support them. A peony ring or something. I had hoped that if I planted enough stuff around them with strong stems, like Monarda, that they would be supported. But I think I need a Plan B.

Another problem with this bed: Shasta daisies have ugly legs.
Gotta hide that somehow.

Here's the entire bed from right to left, in chunks. And some thoughts.
Wow! Nepeta 'Walker's Low is huge. I think this is two plants, planted close together. In all, it stretches about 6 feet wide. There are other plants in here that it totally obscures. Ornamental grasses, a couple of daylilies, etc. When it's done flowering, and I cut it back, those should show up better. But it's a huge clump for just one end of the bed. I need to move some of this to the other end, for balance. Or maybe to another bed entirely. Or out into the street. Or to someone else's garden.

Look at that big bare spot! The two small plants right in the center are Dahlias, and will get bigger before the end of the summer. But it still looks bad. Do I do anything, or do I wait till next year, and see if the bare spot is still there? And there's that ugly shasta daisy foliage again. The plants right in front are Iberis/candytuft on the right, and Veronica in the center. The Iberis is done flowering, but the Veronica hasn't started yet. I bet they will both get bigger next year, but I'm not sure how much bigger.

This far left end of the bed isn't bad, but it still looks like a mish-mash. Nothing is really well-defined, but is that just because so little is flowering yet, except the Lupine? The tomatoes with their wall-of waters and the hoophouse don't help the view much either. I've toyed with the idea of putting a trellis here. Or maybe if I plant Joe-Pye, it will obscure the stuff behind, in the raised beds.

Actually, this detail at this end of the bed isn't bad.

With some judicious tweaking, I think I can improve this bed. I'll be keeping an eye on it in July, when many of the flowers here should start blooming.


My spring bloomers have lots of seedpods maturing.
Oriental Poppy

It's no secret I love growing plants from seed.

In fact, I get almost as much joy seeing seedpods as I do from seeing flowers.


I use a lot of different methods of sowing. I winter sow, I sow under plastic cloches, I direct sow, and I sow in my little portable greenhouses in late winter/early spring.

Pacific Coast iris

Seeds are such magical little packages.

Pink Lupine

Some seeds, especially those of spring ephemerals, need to be sowed very fresh, immediately after ripening.
Pink Dicentra formosa

White Dicentra formosa

Aquilegia formosa

Camassia quamash

Delphinium menziesii

I'm intrigued how much the Delphinium seedpods look like columbine. I figure they will ripen similarly.  When the pod starts to turn brown and split, I'll collect them in labeled plastic cups, open the pods all up so they spill into the cup, and let them dry for a bit.

Aquilegia 'Clementine Red'

Aquilegia 'Leprechaun Gold'

Even though the aquilegia seeds are open-pollinated, I've found that the variegation in  'Leprechaun Gold' comes true. I thought last year that I had collected all the seeds. 

But I must have missed lots. 

Because I have babies everywhere.

Watch my blog for a post when I offer to share seeds. I hope they all ripen properly, but I don't want to offer any prematurely. But once I have a good amount, I'll let you have some.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gig Harbor Garden Tour -- Part 2


The Gardens of the Late Helen Munroe

I saw quite a few of these weeping conifers over the weekend. I want one. I want more conifers, but I'm not quite sure what to do with them.

Like the last garden in my previous post, this garden is on a cliff overlooking Puget Sound.
The view from the back garden

Roses and lavender (just starting to bloom) were a feature

I'm pretty sure this is thyme. It was swarming with bees.

At the side of the house was this oasis -- a wisteria-covered arbor and hot tub.

Right beside the hot tub was this pond and waterfall, with its moss-covered rocks

I saw quite a lot of this plant this past weekend too. It's Gaultheria shallon/Salal.

It's a PNW native which features these dainty little flowers and shiny leaves, but boy! In the right spot, it spreads. I love natives, but I'm afraid of this plant.

There is a major industry in this part of the U.S. that supplies cut Salal leaves for greenery in floral arrangements. You can find out more about Salal here.

Here was a nice contrast in leaf texture.

The hot tub/pond oasis as viewed from the side lawn. It's well hidden.

The Garden of Kathy and Brett Hayfield

To get to this garden, you had to park two streets away, and then follow the pink flamingos across a field.

Although the ambience of the cottage said "beach house," this garden again was on a cliff, with no actual beach access. 

But there was a pretty magnificent view (note the sign).

Love this conglomeration of birdhouses (more is more)!

A major feature of this garden was its repeated use of the color red.

I think they must also be fans of local garden guru Ciscoe Morris (that's his catchphrase).

Words to live (and garden) by

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gig Harbor Garden Tour -- Part 1

On Saturday I went on a garden tour in the nearby town of Gig Harbor. It's about a 30-minute drive from my house, through the larger city of Tacoma and across an infamous bridge -- the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Gig Harbor, nicknamed the Maritime City, is a pretty, albeit somewhat touristy, city with a cute little downtown area and waterfront.

 The patio area of the Java and Clay Cafe, where I had a quick, tasty sandwich for lunch between garden visits.

You can read a little more about the town of Gig Harbor here and here.

The garden tour included 8 gardens (I only visited 7, and all in one day!) The eighth, which I missed, was the community garden. The Gig Harbor Garden Tour Association hosts the tour, which runs on both Saturday and Sunday. I did all 7 at once, despite my protesting feet, because I planned to attend the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Tour on Sunday on Bainbridge Island (I did attend, and it will be the subject of a future post). The Association's mission statement is: "To promote literacy by supporting educational programs for children and adults in the greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula area." The ticket to all 8 gardens cost $25, and 100% of the revenue from the tour goes to adult and children's literacy programs. The tour ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The Garden of Susan and Jim Newell

This charming cottage garden was enclosed with a white picket fence, very much in keeping with the cottage style of the house.

Loved this front entry! The white wicker furniture was a feature throughout.

This sweet birdhouse made me realize that I need something more on my front step than lots and lots of pots.

Lovely little vignettes such as the following appeared at every turn, in every nook and cranny of the garden.

 I wanted to stay until dark so I could sit on that patio and see those lights twinkling.

My first encounter with Monkshood -- I thought it was Delphinium till I took a closer look at the flower
Doesn't it look like a helmet?

According to the blurb about this garden, Jim built this potting area and the arbor in the next picture as a gift to Susan.

Wonderful sentiment on the plaque

The Garden of Millie and Craig Russell
This garden began life as an Oriental garden, but after recent renovations to the house and gardens is now an interesting hybrid of Oriental and plant collector's paradise. And it has a lovely water view.

Garden Entrance

Sambucus 'Black Lace'

Primula viallii

A reminder to me that I need to tuck seedlings into the stones at the edges of my path

 Believe it or not, there is a stairway down through this rockery to the putting green below.

Can you see it?

Don't you love these mossy faces?

Five more gardens to come in future posts!