Posts Tagged ‘plants’

baby garden’s first fall

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Whoa. My baby’s growing up! Leave home for a week or so and things really change around here. Here’s a look at the first signs of autumn brilliance in our own backyard.

Our spindly little dogwood, which would probably look better if previous owners had planted it in a less shady spot, glows a lovely, warm red now…

our dogwood... not sure which variety

My trio of Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion Beautyberry’ are loaded with Barney-colored berries…

beautyberry trio

callicarpa bodinieri ‘profusion beautyberry’

Just across the path, my new golden spruce, picea orientalis ‘skylands,’ really shines behind the dark euphorbia ‘blackbird’

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ behind euphorbia ‘blackbird’

Just look at those crazy euphorbia. They stay a dark eggplant shade with hits of blue and chartreuse from spring through fall. I hope they make it through the winter…

euphorbia ‘blackbird’ closeup

Further up the hill I have another euphorbia, this one is ‘Bonfire’. It complements the other fall shades around the yard quite nicely, I think. Especially since I set it in front of sumacs and penesetums…

euphorbia ‘bonfire’

Speaking of which, the Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes sumacs’ and ornamental grass border looks like it’s on fire…

back border

That’s ricinis communis (castor bean) in the front there next to miscanthus sinensis ‘silberfeder’ (Japanese Silver Grass). ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac are the fiery bits in back. The sumac colors are amazing…

sumac detail

The castor bean’s leaves and alien-looking seedpods are a nice complement…

castor bean

Further back, my new Rhus aromatica ‘Gro Low sumacs’ are not only securing the slope but bursting with color. Someday they’ll mature into a real eye-catcher every fall…

gro low sumac

My Japanese Forest Grass is finally starting to fill in and has taken on some nice fall color. These should look much more impressive next year — they’re not even half the size they should reach. Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ is is turning burgundy at the tips…

hakonechloa ‘beni kaze’

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ is starting to go from chartreuse to brilliant gold, as the name promises…

hakonechloa ‘all gold’

And Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ is beginning to take on shades of purple and pink…

hakonechloa ‘aureole’

Last but hardly least, Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Ruby Ribbons Switch Grass) has gone from seafoam blue and purple to a deep, deep red, which looks fab next to the sage-y green of the euphorbia myrsinites ‘donkey tail spurge’

anicum virgatum ‘ruby ribbons’ and euphorbia myrsinites ‘donkey tail spurge’

And to make fall all the more glorious, it’s 73 degrees out today! Wait… what the hell am I doing indoors?

plant geeks only: conifers

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The next installment in my ongoing cataloging of plantage: Conifers! O how do I love thee, gymnosperm? I love thine evergreeniness. I love thee for anchoring my garden and for your amazing foresty scent. I love thee as living sculpture — particularly thee irregularly shaped cultivars.

So far I’ve planted seven carefully curated conifers around the yard. Each was chosen for various reasons, including a tendency not to grow to towering heights and block all my sun. Here goes…

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Dwarf Japanese Thunderhead Black Pine)…

pinus thunbergii ‘thunderhead’ |

pinus thunbergii ‘thunderhead’ |

The Thunderhead is next to our yet-to-exist fish pond, positioned for prime viewing from our yet-to-exist window wall. I like to get a headstart. We love this tree. Bix has dubbed him Teddy, because he looks so huggable. In the spring its cones stick up like candles. Although it also looks like the tree is flipping you the bird…

thunderhead candles |

thunderhead candles |

Here’s our Teddy, picked up at Briggs Nursery in Attleboro, Mass. Such a cutie…

teddy the thunderhead

I just want to pinch his widdle cheeks every time I see him. More on the Thunderhead here.

Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’ (Yellow Oriental  Spruce)…

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ |

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ |

Color. I crave it, especially in winter. For the warm season, I wanted a jolt of brightness on the way up the path to lead the eye up to my blindingly chartreuse Tiger Eye sumacs (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’, more on those another time). The Skylands Oriental spruce was a no-brainer…

skylands oriental spruce in foreground with tiger eye sumacs atop hill

Not a sunny day here in Providence, as you can see. But the Skylands I drove all the way to Estabrook’s in Yarmouth, Maine, to retrieve, shines like the sun — as do the sumacs at the top of the hill. Click to biggify and you can spot my new Silberlocke fir right in front of the stairs. More on the fir below. [On the left: Shasta viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’), ‘Beni Kaze’ Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’) and a bamboo-like bramble called Rubus henryi bambusoides on the trellis.]

Skylands bonus: hot pink-reddish cones at the tips of the branches in the spring just add to the disco. Can’t wait to put my dancypants on when these appear…

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ |

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ |

For a biggified shot of Skyland’s brilliance, click the top image here.

Pinus parviflora ‘Tempelhof’ (Japanese ‘Tempelhof’ White Pine)…

pinus parviflora ‘tempelhof’ |

pinus parviflora ‘templehof’ |

From hereon out to be referred to as “The Hof.” Blue. I really wanted a burst of it behind my three Purple beautyberries (Callicarpa dichotoma), and now I have it…

our templehof behind the callicarpas

Found Hof at Briggs. Just take a look at how cool his needles are…

templehof needles

I saw a nuthatch pecking away at his pinecones yesterday. That makes me happy.

Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ (Korean Fir ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’)…

abies koreana ‘horstmann’s silberlocke’ |

abies koreana ‘horstmann’s silberlocke’ |

A bit of silvery blue, positioned further up the path past the blue Hof and the golden Skylands. The Silberlocke fir has unique needles that curl up to reveal silver undersides. Here’s a shot of ours…

abies silberlocke needles

In early summer, the cones are the craziest shade of blueish-purple you’ve ever seen. These don’t quite capture it…

abies koreana ‘horstmann’s silberlocke’ |

abies koreana ‘horstmann’s silberlocke’ |

abies koreana ‘horstmann’s silberlocke’ |

In my growing conifer museum, I think Silberlocke will be one of my favorites. Found this one at Esposito’s Nursery in Cohasset, Mass.

Pinus sylvestris ‘Albyn Prostrata’ (Albyn Prostrate Scotch Pine)…

pinus sylvestris ‘albyn prostrata’ |

pinus sylvestris ‘albyn prostrata’ |

I needed a low spreader to hold a small slope above what I’m calling “The Desert Room,” planted with some of my more drought-tolerant plants. This pine is perfect for that. Stays low but spreads out. I like it’s blue cast. Give it a few years and mine should take over this slope…

our little scotch pine

Picked this baby up at The Farmer’s Daughter in Wakefield, RI. Nice selection of conifers there, especially rock garden specimens. I should mention that this Scotch pine has really cute pine cones and makes the lower part of the garden smell fantastic…

cone on my scotch pine

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ (Japanese ‘Dragon’s Eye’ Red Pine)…

pinus densiflora ‘oculus draconis’ |

pinus densiflora ‘oculus draconis’ |

Not a pine you see often. Or ever. Dragon’s Eye should look awesome against a snowy landscape — and in the years to come, its trunk gets twisted and gnarled. Just look at those needles!

the eye of the dragon |

the eye of the dragon |

See the eye? It sees you. I just love those yellow bands…

pinus densiflora ‘oculus draconis’ |

pinus densiflora ‘oculus draconis’ |

Here’s our little Dragon’s Eye lighting up the far corner of the yard…

our dragons eye japanese white pine

[Dragon’s Eye flanked by Castor Bean (Rincus communis) and ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’)]

At The Farmer’s Daughter, where I picked my Dragon’s Eye, they had a crazy tall one carved into a bonsai…

dragons eye bonsai at farmer’s daughter

Impressive but we’ll be keepin’ it real with our tree. True to its breed, Japanese red pine is supposed to create an excellent windbreak as its tendency is to spread out horizontally like so…

typical pinus densiflora | oculus draconis feature on

typical pinus densiflora | oculus draconis feature on

… which is another reason I put it on the north side of our yard. Let’s hope it grows to fulfill its potential. As with all of us.

gardening with conifers

Before I finish up here, I’d like to say I couldn’t have done my research without the aid of Gardening With Conifers by Adrian Bloom. Excellent resource. Here’s a little something I bet you didn’t know that I picked up from Bloom’s book: the gingko biloba is a conifer. Yes, the gingko!

ginkgos at huntington japanese garden |

ginkgos at huntington japanese garden |

I wish I had room for a big statement-making gingko but no. Luckily, dwarf cultivars have been introduced in recent years, one of which I picked up at The Farmer’s Daughter. Bound to a pot for the last few years, my Ginkgo ‘Jade Butterflies’ is starting to get root-bound. Now that it’s fall, it should be yellowing up soon…

my ginkgo butterflies, still in a pot

The male trees don’t fruit, so no stinko in this ginkgo. The moment our new patio is poured and all likelihood of trampling has passed, I’m putting this guy in the ground.

On that note, I take my leave. Carry on.

plant geeks only: japanese maples

Friday, October 1st, 2010

What is it about Asian gardens that draws me to them? The focus on foliage and texture? The exotic and irregular shapes? The simplicity — which requires the kind of restraint I just don’t have? I’ll never have a full-on traditional Japanese garden, but since I started planting I’ve tried to include some elements that I love. Starting with Japanese maples.

I lack the room for sizable trees, but I’ve managed to work in a handful that will max out at 10′ or less. Here are my choices so far…

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’ (Crimson Queen Threadleaf Japanese Maple)…

acer palmatum ‘crimson queen’ | shot at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

acer palmatum ‘crimson queen’ | shot at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Drooled over this one at Brooklyn Botanic and then promptly hunted one down at Seven Arrows Farm in Attleboro, Mass.

Acer palmatum ‘Sister Ghost’ (Sister Ghost Japanese Maple)…

acer palmatum ‘sister ghost’ |

acer palmatum ‘sister ghost’ |

Picked up online via Eastfork Nursery, who did a fantastic job of packaging. Gorgeous little tree.

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Red Dragon’ (Red Dragon Threadleaf Japanese Maple)…

acer palmatum ‘red dragon’ |

acer palmatum ‘red dragon’ |

Picked up at Briggs Nursery in Attleboro, Mass. They carry a surprisingly good selection of Japanese maples in spring and summer.

Acer shirasawanum ‘Sensu’ (Sensu dwarf Full Moon Japanese Maple)…

acer shirasawanum ‘sensu’ |

acer shirasawanum ‘sensu’ |

Another tree I sourced from Eastfork. I wish I had room for a full-sized full moon but oh well. This will do nicely once it grows up.

Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Viridis’ (Viridis Threadleaf Japanese Maple)…

acer palmatum ‘viridis’ |

acer palmatum ‘viridis’ |

A second maple from Briggs. I stalk there frequently.

Most of my trees are relatively dinky — buying smaller means buying more affordable. I’m a little nervous about how they’ll make it through their first cold, windy winter. I have a feeling some of them will need protection. Fingers crossed that everyone makes it through to spring.

the harvest is ON, ish

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

October arrives tomorrow. The tomatoes took their sweet time this year but have finally decided they’re ready for their closeup. ‘bout time! Don’t worry. Those Green Zebra and Green Sausage heirlooms are meant to be green…

today’s heirloom bonanza


the time is ripe…

Monday, September 13th, 2010

So why aren’t my friggin’ tomatoes?! This is September, right? I normally start harvesting bumper crops of heirlooms the first week of August. Yeesh.

This heirloom, whose plant tag appears to have escaped me… big. fat. green.

unidentified heirloom

My brandywines… green.

brandywine... green!

Black cherries… green.

black cherries... green!

Garden peach… just starting to turn yellow.

just a hint of yellow on the garden peach

Green zebras… yes, supposed to be green but still rock hard!

just a hint of yellow on the garden peach

Green sausage tomatoes… also supposed to be green but again, not ready.

green sausauge tomatoes... not ripe!

Even the tomatillos… not quite there yet!

even the tomatillos... bah!

I don’t understand. I trimmed out the overzealous branches. They get plenty of harvested rainwater. No bugs. No mildew. No blight. Just leafy and healthy. And green.

tomatoes, oh so green!

The feta is ready. So why aren’t you guys? Is it something I said?

what? cardoons flower?!

Friday, August 27th, 2010

After all that hunting high and low for a nursery that had even heard of a cardoon, I am pleased to report that my three are going gangbusters right now. Here’s the grand-daddy of them all…

one of my cardoons, growing like mad

About 4′ high. About 5′ across. And such a gorgeous silvery green shade. Definitely that big-time drama I was going for. Love it.

Last week while in the Berkshires, we spent a few hours at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA. A wondrous place replete with late-summer garden amazement. Anyway, as we were just about to finish our walkabout, I happened into a small garden area that, low and behold, featured this…

cardoon at berkshire botanical garden

Hey, a cardoon! What the… what’s that crazy bit at the top there?

cardoon blooms!

omg, it looks like a thistle — a 7′ tall thistle! Whoa. It was literally swarming with bees, who all somehow managed to flee the shot right as I took it.

Are you sure this is a cardoon? None of mine are flowering. The first ones I ever saw at Denver Botanic Garden weren’t blooming either. Hmm… that is most definitely a cardoon in full flower.

cardoon bloom close-up

I had to look it up when I got back to my computer.

And yes, there it is in wikipedia: a cardoon in flower. Who knew? Yep, it’s related to a thistle. The artichoke lineage I knew about but the thistle I did not. Guess that’s because I didn’t know artichokes belong to the thistle family. God I love me some internets.

Of course cardoons flower, duh. Why didn’t that occur to me before? Even if mine never do, knowing they can makes my heart go pitty-pat for them just a little bit more.


Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

This is for my friend, John, who’s lamenting that his orchid cactus isn’t doing much these days. Looking a bit like Medusa, this is my orchid cactus

orchid cactus

Native to South America, it’s a little taste of the tropics, right here in Rhode Island. The blooms are about 6″ across…

orchid cactus abloom

No smell. But there are scented varieties out there. This one stays indoors until May, then I stick it in part sun/part shade and water it almost daily all summer. In June and July, it busts out about 100 fire-engine red blooms over the course of about a month…

orchid cactus closeup

I’ll lug the whole 50 lb pot back inside in late October. Well worth the workout, if ya ask me.

alien abduction!

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I promise to post pix of the new veggie beds soon. In the meantime, I dropped by Farmer’s Daughter recently in search of the missing pieces to my garden puzzle when I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by this completely alien looking plant…

sputnik flowers!

Holy moly! Here they are from another angle…

sputnik flowers from another angle

Sputnik flowers rising above a bed of Sedum Angelina! Spacetacular, aren’t they? Did a little research and figured out these are Allium Schubertii, an ornamental onion. Completely bizarre. And drought tolerant, no less! But wait, you really need a better idea of scale…

Allium Schubertii

Can you believe the size of that thing?! I must have it. Yes, I will have it.

plant geeks only: ornamental grasses

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

So about my garden style. It could be construed as slightly schizophrenic. I’ve analyzed the plants I’ve chosen and here are the major categories I see: Asian, tropicalesque, desert/rock garden/xeriscape, big drama, chartreuse foliage, blackish-burgundy foliage, blue foliage, plants with great architecture, amazing fall color, plants for birds/bees/butterflies and conifers.

How the heck am I going to make it all make sense, since you can see almost our entire garden from one spot — at least until it’s established? Ornamental grasses. They’re a no-brainer. There are shade varieties, sun varieties, damp and dry varieties. Some have plumes, some have panicles. Some upright, some blousey. They come in all sizes and colors. Are pretty low maintenance. And best of all: they blow in the breeze.

Here are the grasses I have going in the ground, in no particular order — 21 flavors so far:

Fargesia sp. ‘Rufa’ (cold-hardy Clumping Bamboo)…

fargesia sp. ‘rufa’, photo: Noah Bell |

fargesia sp. ‘rufa’, photo: Noah Bell |

Sasa veitchii ‘Kuma Zasa’ (Kuma Bamboo)…

sasa veitchii ‘kuma zasa’ |

sasa veitchii ‘kuma zasa’ |

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese Forest Grass)…

hakonechloa macra ‘aureola’ |

hakonechloa macra ‘aureola’ |

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ (Japanese Forest Grass)…

hakonechola macra ‘all gold’ |

hakonechola macra ‘all gold’ |

Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ (Japanese Forest Grass)…

hakonechloa macra ‘beni kaze’ |

hakonechloa macra ‘beni kaze’ |

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)…

chasmanthium latifolium |

chasmanthium latifolium |

Carex appalachica (Appalachian Sedge)…

carex appalachica |

carex appalachica |

Carex flacca ‘Blue Zinger’ (Blue Zinger Sedge)…

carex flacca ‘blue zinger’ |

carex flacca ‘blue zinger’ |

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphirsprudel’ (Blue Sapphire Fountain Grass)…

helictotrichon sempervirens 'saphirsprudel' |

helictotrichon sempervirens 'saphirsprudel' |

Miscanthus sinensus ‘Rotsilber’ (Red-Silver Japanese Silver Grass)…

miscanthus sinensis ‘rotsilber’ |

miscanthus sinensis ‘rotsilber’ |

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)…

schizachyrium scoparium ‘the blues’ |

schizachyrium scoparium ‘the blues’ |

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ (Shenadoah Switch Grass)…

panicum virgatum ‘shenandoah’ |

panicum virgatum ‘shenandoah’ |

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (Blue Switch Grass)…

panicum virgatum ‘heavy metal’ |

panicum virgatum ‘heavy metal’ |

Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’ (Dallas Blue Switch Grass)…

panicum virgatum ‘dallas blues’ |

panicum virgatum ‘dallas blues’ |

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Ribbons Switch Grass)…

panicum virgatum ‘ruby ribbons’ |

panicum virgatum ‘ruby ribbons’ |

Miscanthus sinensis v. purpurascens (Flame Grass)…

miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ |

miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ |

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Avalanche’ (Variegated Feather Reed Grass)…

calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘avalanche’ |

calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘avalanche’ |

Elymus arenarius ‘Blue Dune’ (Blue Lyme Grass)…

elymus arenarius ‘blue dune’ |

elymus arenarius ‘blue dune’ |

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Dwarf Fountain Grass)…

pennisetum alopecuroides ‘hameln’ |

pennisetum alopecuroides ‘hameln’ |

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ |

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ |

Stipa Gigantea (Giant Feather Grass)…

stipa gigantea |

stipa gigantea |

Every one of the ornamental grasses above, whether I’ve had it waiting in a pot or bought it new to fill out the garden, are perennial. At least here in Zone 5.

The great part about grass is how easy it is to make MORE OF IT. Take Japanese Forest Grass  — late last summer I sliced my single clump in half. When spring came, I had two large clumps. I sliced those two into fourths and those eight clumps are already big! Btw, just saw that same forest grass at a local nursery for $25 a container. Talk about easy math.

Will share more plants in other categories in the days ahead. You can hardly wait, right? Right?

squirrels with murderous intent

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

So I continue my rush to get everything in the ground as the heat of summer shuffles toward us on its heavy, sweaty feet. Always, always I plant with the furries and winged things in mind — and what do they do, the little ne’er-do-wells? They slay the newly planted! Well, okay, not usually. But they did yesterday.

A fledgling datura was coming up as a volunteer in one of my pots so I popped it in the ground…

plant disasters... datura alive

The next morning it was dug up and shrivelly…

plant disasters... datura dead


Not a single castor bean plant reseeded itself this spring — they’ve had a tough time being forced into pots for the last few years. So I finally got my hands on some actual plants the other day just a little over a foot tall…

plant disasters... castor bean alive

One of them has been reduced to a pathetic nub of a stem…

plant disasters... castor bean stem

The top of the plant was snapped off and halfway down the hill. I doubt they chewed the top off as every part of the castor bean is highly toxic. I only know it was the squirrels because my crafty neighbor, Frank, tried to capture it all on video.

Cute little f**kers. They should watch this and be afraid. Very afraid.