Sunday, April 20, 2008

Planting mania(c)

Yes, I haven't blogged in weeks, and now two entries in one day – I've been somewhat sidetracked with spring.

You see, when we moved into this house three years ago, I really wanted to spruce up the backyard. It was nice enough when we moved in, what with our having hired the landscaping people to come in and clean up what landscaping was already there and seed some new grass since there was very little there. The landscapers didn't add anything, mind you, they simply spruced up what was there. There were some very large ivy beds at the back and on the east side of the yard, which had some trees in them; the landscapers shaped and edged them. The bed on the east had two forsythia side by side, and a lilac tree, with a single stand of daffodils, a single stand of wood hyacinth, and a tiny smattering of vinca minor. They trimmed back the forsythia in that bed and that was about it.

The bed in the back had a number of trees along the fence line, a few forsythia branches, a couple of small sassafras, several stands of wood hyacinth and several stands of daffodils. That bed was only shaped and edged, no pruning.

That year, we planted a Kwanzan Cherry in the back bed. It's pretty, but it's still not filled all the way out. It needs a couple more years to be stunning. Last year, I was very disappointed with it because I thought it should have bloomed more profusely. After all, this was its second year in the ground. But it was a rather weak showing of blooms.

But I digress. The backyard has been something I have wanted dress up from the beginning and, two years ago, I set about creating a plan for a perennial shade garden. I had seen a number of such gardens described in plant catalogs and such, but most of them weren't appropriately designed to the size of my space or weren't completely pet-safe. I also prefer perennials with a longer bloom period than two weeks, and those aren't easy to find, especially in a shade plant. They didn't all have to be long bloomers, but I wanted at least a couple of items to be able to run through an entire season. I also wanted a variety of plants so that the are bloomed in stages; that would make it nice from spring to late summer.

This year, I finalized my garden drawings and was ready to start buying. I created an Excel spreadsheet to get an idea of the cost, since I knew it wasn't going to be cheap. It was more expensive than I had thought. What's worse, one of the large nurseries here had some of the plants I needed as already grown, which offers instant gratification when planted, and being somewhat impatient when I am working on projects such as these, I am all about instant gratification. Naturally, the already-grown plants are more expensive than the small ones or the bare-root catalog stock. But I would not be deterred from the task at hand. As you read in my last post, I began buying some things here and there. A little here, a little there, a little more here, a lot more there, and before I knew it, I had spent a small fortune. But it's mostly done, and I think it's going to look great. In just the last four days, I've planted more than forty items.

I may need more than one sitting to post all this; it feels like "The Twelve Days of Christmas": 15 small Purple Dragon lamium; 9 Illumination vinca; 5 Coral Bells Obsidian heuchera; 5 small Brise d'Anjou polemonium; 4 Bridal Veil white astilbe; 3 large Bressingham Purple polemonium; 3 large Purple Dragon lamium; 3 Pink Skyrocket tiarella; 2 small bleeding heart in red; 2 Visions in Pink astilbe; 1 large bleeding heart in red; 1 large bleeding heart in white; 1 columbine in pink; 1 double columbine in deep purple; 1 Silver Fire andromeda; 1 azalea in lavender; 1 Sappho rhododendron; 1 Hachmann's Charmant rhododendron; 1 male Japanese Skimmia; and 1 mountain laurel in pink. I still have to add a few plants later in the season that haven't yet arrived in the nurseries.

I also bought 6 clematis vines, which weren't for the shady area, to cover some fencing that desperately needs it.

So pictorially, here's how it's shaping up, and don't forget, we're dealing with shade here, so some of these pictures won't be the greatest (click on the picture for a larger version):

The back bed had a nice dramatic curved line to work with already, so I am emphasizing that. Here, just to the right of the pansy pot, you see a small, yellow variegated leaf polemonium Brise d'Anjou, and further up right, a large Bressingham Purple polemonium. These have fern-like foliage and the flowers have a very light and wonderful fragrance that doesn't you have to stop and bend over to smell them.

Here's a close-up of the beautiful blooms.

This is the pink columbine; the flowers are so intricate they almost seem unreal.

These are the double columbine. They are called double because they produce a flower with many more petals or stamens/anthers than the original type. I am not particularly crazy about the double columbines, but I really liked this color.

On the left, you see the white bleeding heat, with the pink columbine in the foreground.

Here's the red bleeding heart, which was placed by the Hachmann's Charmant rhodo.

I created a cluster of the tiarella and framed it with the obsidian heuchera. It's very pretty. The tiarella also have a very faint but lovely fragrance, and their variegated foliage is interesting.

See the little yellow leaves in the center of the photo? Those are the Illumination vinca. They will develop tiny purple flowers and will line the border of the back ivy bed.

This is also a vinca, but the traditional type, and these were already in the east bed, though only a few. The flowers you see here will be like the ones that will bloom on the variegated "Illumination" version. They bloom for weeks.

This is a Silver Fire andromeda. It flowers in spring like a regular andromeda (see below) but it has a variegated leaf instead of solid green. The bonus is that once the flowering stops and the new foliage begins to sprout, the new foliage starts as this gorgeous coral-red shade and matures into the white-lined green leaf. This one I put in the bed in the front of the house where we had a rhododendron that didn't survive a harsh winter from the year before last.

Here's what the flowers of a traditional andromeda (also known as Japanese mountain laurel) look like.

This is the azalea, which is also in the front of the house. It replaced a holly bush that didn't make it through that same harsh winter I mentioned before. It hasn't bloomed yet, but as you can see, it has loads of buds.

In the foreground, you see the Purple Dragon lamium, which is a ground cover. The leaves are almost silvery, with a dark green edge, and the bloom is a lovely shade of magenta-purple. to the right and above is the Sappho rhododendron. I am very unhappy that its first day in the ground, it was ambushed by fracking squirrels who ate most of its buds! And today I went out to find the rest of them gone. Arrgh!

This has nothing to do with the shade garden, it's just the blooms on my peach tree. Unfortunately, due to the way it was shaded last season by the forsythia, I only got six blooms on the peach tree this year! That is so disappointing. Given the track record of peaches making it from bloom all the way to production, I will only get about three peaches from the tree this season, and that's only if the squirrels leave them alone. This is the tree's third season and these will be the only peaches I will have had from the tree, ever (if they even produce). The first season, you pinch all the blooms to give the tree branch production, so no peaches. The second season, those fracking squirrels ate the peaches while they were still green.

This is one of the hosta beds next to the house. I didn't plant anything here, just wanted to show what it looks like. Jess' mom and dad had planted these beds, and they are just beautiful when they are at mid season.

The other hosta bed on the west side of the walk. This shot was taken two weeks ago...

...and this one was taken yesterday, after I had added the obsidian heuchera for accent. See how much they've grown?

Okay, that's it for now. More to come later.


At 1:48 PM, April 20, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

I already liked what you had done with the front and back yards, but all of the work you've done this year has me excited for the beauty yet to come. It's amazing already, and I can't wait to see what will come as the plants grow and mature!

At 6:31 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

Call me if you need something killed...otherwise, I am more of a black plague when it comes to keeping any plant life alive. But your garden is beautiful!

At 6:36 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

By the way, I was checking out Jess' blog and noticed that Bernice looks exactly like my little girl Nadine. Sooooo cute!

At 7:52 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

I'm said it before - Your garden is going to be absolutely beautiful..actually, it's pretty much already there!

At 9:22 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

Michelle - Yes, I noticed a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting your blog that Bernice and Nadine were quite similar! I meant to say something to you and forgot! Bernice is 10. How old is Nadine? (My aunt was named Nadine, by the way!)

At 11:16 AM, April 24, 2008, Blogger Brooklyn Bitch said...

Beautiful Mark! Your garden is lookin' top notch. It puts my "roof garden" to shame. And then some! :)

At 12:26 PM, April 24, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

Hey Marc,

Nadine is 4. Apparently she is some kind of mix between a hound and a german shepherd. Very sweet girl. :)

At 7:19 PM, April 24, 2008, Blogger ATG said...

Wow, it all looks so beautiful. I love columbines and bleeding hearts too.

At 10:09 PM, April 24, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

P - Pretty much there, but still a few more things to plant. Tonight, I planted 5 hosta that arrived by mail order.

BB - Thanks! Naww, your roof garden is gonna be great. You work with what you have! I am very lucky that this property gives me a lot of latitude. I wish I had more herbs planted. I have chives, rosemary, cilantro and basil started...but I could go for some thyme and sage, too. I have some lettuces planted in containers...about two more weeks before the first leaves are ready.

ATG - welcome! Thanks. This will be my first experience with both.I love columbines but have never had a shady spot to grow them. I have to admit, I got the bleeding heart in hopes of attracting some hummingbirds. I have some other flowers planned to put in that also attract hummingbirds. You don't often see them around here.

At 8:21 AM, April 25, 2008, Blogger pinknest said...

wow, gorgeous! you put a lot of work into your garden. it's beautiful! i would so love a garden. but i know that i would become would be overwhelming!

At 2:50 PM, April 27, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

Obsessed, that's exactly what it is. And it is overwhelming. I hope I can stop myself. I need to go to Gardeners Anonymous.


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