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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tree Peonies

As any gardener knows, occasionally, there is a day in the garden - and just one day - when everything looks really good. These are few and far between, and it takes real discipline to see the beauty and not the weeds.

April has been fierce. Biblical rains for days. Then, four days of scorching, weird, awful heat (without the benefit of any true leaf cover.) Tulips wilted at the thought of the day to come. New peony shoots curled leaves to the ground as if wanting to go back. Then, 30 degree temperature drops and rain rain rain. Today, cool, breezy, scattered showers - perfect to walk the gardens and plan the next work day.

I walked to the western garden and stopped, stared, and fell in love with the tree peonies.

The six pictured here are the oldest plants in the garden and this is by far the best bud production. Aren't they glamorous, blowsy things? Last year, I splurged and added a dozen more - received as bareroot plants. There are only a couple of buds on the new additions, so they may want a settling in year.

The western garden has been under development for the ten years I've been figuring out the gardens here. It is the most browsed by deer. It is the least watered (no proximate faucet). It's shaded by a large beech tree, so mostly dry shade. Some areas of blazing afternoon sun.

Three years ago, a stand of old, large skip laurels died - termites! So there was a big blank area - the garden viewed from the guest room. I let it lie fallow for a year, then planted it as a field of tree peonies. I've tested nearly every perennial for the combo of shade and late afternoon sun and learned which were deer tolerant and which, sadly, were not.

Here are some plants that have proven to be the most reliably deer resistant:
Tree & Herbaceous Peony
Lily of the valley
Virginia bluebells
Caryopteris (Bluebeard)
Bronze Fennel
Clematis montana
Coreopsis (native)
Magnolia stellata
Papaver (all)
Clematis jackmanii

Here are a few plants that occasionally spark some deer's interest, but generally do alright.
Achellia mollis

Finally, if someone can tell me what animal is un-potting my new teeny rosemary plant every night, and how to stop them, I would be very grateful.

I don't think it's this fellow, who has taken up residence next to the front door.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A few years ago I obsessively read all of Elizabeth Lawrence’s books. She was a marvelous garden writer, who kept a plant-lovers garden in Charlotte, NC. One of my favorite of her books was a treatise on the Little Bulbs. ( )

Miss Lawrence gardened in the South, so couldn’t grow tulips successfully. I don’t know if that is what gave her the impetus to study the “little bulbs”, but if it wasn’t the weather, surely it was the squirrels.

I’m appreciating all my small bulbs this year and feeling closer to Elizabeth L. than ever. Check out this field of chionodoxa forbesii ‘blue giant.’ They have been happily colonizing for a couple of years and would probably be even more rambunctious if I hadn’t stirred up this part of the garden installing tree peonies last fall.

Other small bulbs, planted in the front of the house – ipheon, camassia and anemone -- are all getting ready to bloom. They really do add a layer in a bed full of bulbs, and are wonderful punctuations at the front of the border.

The farm work continues. Report from the outside bed: Teeny lettuce seeds are sprouting. Also peas.

Down in the basement, all sorts of seeds are sprouting. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to start seeds according to how quickly they would germinate. Instead, I started them all at once. Now, they are all different sizes – have no idea if this is going to be a problem later.

In the meantime, I also received some Italian Roma tomato seeds so I’m starting those on a heated germination pad that’s all rigged up on top of a box on top of some other stuff.

To make this contraption even more complicated, I’ve got a little fan blowing on the itty bitty plants – evidently this will “toughen them up.” The whole set-up is looking crazy.

I am certainly focused on everything tiny these days... from tiny bulbs to tiny seedlings. And all the wonderful tiny emergences of Spring.

More photos of the little bulbs in my garden