Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Think Tulips - Part 1

Cut from last years' garden: Tulips Burning Heart, Gavotta and Salmon Parrot with that gorgeous white daffodil Thalia, Leucojum 'Gravetye Giant' (do not settle for the other) Fritillaria meleagris standing tallest... Some early bulbs have already arrived (some special fritillaria, divine autumn blooming colchicum) and other orders are done, but I am still ( he end of September!) dickering over the last tulip orders. Variegated (or broken) ones like Rembrandt's Favorite, Jackpot and Gavotta have already been ordered because they are invariably the one that seem to sell out, which can be crushing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Shapely Garden

Now is also the perfect time of year to get into Exterior Decorating (a great phrase fully attributed to the debonair garden historian John Danzer's). Read all about it in my dirt column in the September issue of Hampton's Cottages & Gardens and watch my blog for other uplifting autumnal schemes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

But Is It A Garden

As the season fleetingly draws to a close, I am plagued more and more by the question of what is a garden? Or more precisely, do I have a garden? Is it merely just a collection of increasingly vulnerable plants - some of which I cannot seem to get enough of - no matter what the consequences. No matter how delectable to the various creatures, hooved, furry and/or winged, those which inhabit our neighborhoods above and below ground - there is always the allure of a new season, a different challenge, the hope that the weather will be just rainy enough to keep everything thriving and warm enough to cause those incredible growth spurts and that somehow, next year we will keep the creatures at bay.
Usually I find getting too philosophical about the garden boring, but the other question that vexes me: is a garden still a garden if no one ever sees it but the gardener? Which reminds me of a joyous trip to the Cotswolds some years ago - a literal gardening feast - and the opportunity to make one lonely garden-keeper happy. Idbury Manor, is seldom used but meticulously maintained season-in and season-out.

So imagine the joy of this dedicated groundskeeper when seven of us eager American garden-lovers descended on this idyllic 16th Century house for a week of oohing and aahing . Even the plants perked up - so happy were they to be viewed so adoringly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Irresistible Iris

If you plant some of the best from every category of Iris - you will have them blooming from earliest spring (the first real color along with the Hellebores)

through to high summer with the crescendo of the delioursly beautiful Japanese Iris ensata...the more delicate 'beardless' variety that often have face-up sometimes filigreed-looking 6" diameter flowers... (see the first picture). All those big blowsy bearded ones are inbetween. They are my least favorite but they do come in glorious color combinations (see the mixed bunch).

But those to order right now and plant along with your tulips and daffodils, are these incredibly sweet and small early Iris. Sometimes they are referred to as Dwarf Iris and other times Rock Garden Iris; but whatever you call them they create a great buzz of heartwarming excitement when they come peeking out of the ground --- planted around snowdrops they are really the perfect counterpoint. Even peeping out from under this Deer-Away stained Yew, they give that magic resilience...though usually classified as Iris reticulata, there are a few other species (they are always classified together in the catalogues). This dreamy pale blue-green one is Iris histrioides Katherine Hodgkin. They come in an amazing range of colors, the blues alone are described as sky, flax, bluebird, lobelia, blackish and so on. The secret is to plant lots of them and not in one big clump....the bulbs are small and you can go about digging little holes everywhere so they will spring up unexpectedly all over the place. have a wonderful selction with good pictures....but if you are willing to get into a little quantity - then has more than a dozen to choose from at prices a fraction of the others.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Propitious Moss Modes

One of the most charming elements, and certainly the freshest of the autumn garden is the lushness of various mosses. Some around here are God-given but others have been initially acquired from Moss Acres and coaxed along by me. The company ships vibrant clumps of live mosses and if situated just right, they actually do spread and of course, you can help it spread. Under the big old magnolia, there is now so much moss galore that I pick up big clumps of it with my wonderful trowel and move it to north facing moody shady places that look particularly susceptible. Now that summer is heating-down - the time is ripe to dream of big endeavors like creating a Moss Lawn - extremely ambitious - but little pockets of moss are easier and can be a big wow. The Moss Acres site is filled with information, mosses to buy and Latin names. Forget the Moss Milkshake (no directions really, so one is expected to be something of a magician and just conjure up how it is supposed to be diluted, spread - how it works) but the sheets of mosses they ship arrive ready to grow. Plant (or place) immediately.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Labor Day Garden Blues

Almost nothing is on the come and the sun-kissed bliss of summer has turned many leaves to leather and only made the weeds more audacious. Putting the garden to bed is next on the agenda and as you do this gradual clearing, note all the room you are making for the fabulous bulbs and tubers that you should begin to order right now. When you think of daffodils and crocus - you normally do not think of this:
But the time to order it and when to plant is the exact same as that of your favorite tulip or hyacinth. The very name Dracunculus vulgaris is more emblematic of necromancy or some other dark art than a reminder of the coming sighs of spring, but that time is still now. This astonishing plant will emerge just as the spring lovelies are waning and it shocks the garden into a new sort of splendor. During the 3 weeks of the unfurling of the big carmine-red-drenched spathe, even the dog is spellbound. After the 'flowering', a fabulous arrangement of circular leaves becomes more apparent. Their luminous white markings become almost transparent at the twilighty end of the day. Available from Brent and Becky's Bulbs and quite a bang for your buck. Five for less than $20 and although it looks like the most exotic of rain forest denizens - it is completely winter hardy here on Long Island.

The biggest news...and a spec of info that I didn't discover until this year when our winds and rains of June knocked one completely down - it can even be kept inside in a vase for ultra-drama. It's fabulous and not nearly as stinky as some would have you believe.

Watch my blog for other great bulbs, both classic and otherwise, and where to get them. Plenty of time for planting - October, November and then some. But ordering is September - that's now!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cooling Off This is Loyse de Pury dousing down at The Watermill Center Discovery Day. Cool in every way. This wonderful free-to-the-community Open Day of Fabulous Performances and scintillating Children's Workshops occurs annually in mid-August. Put it on your calendar now for 2010 and look for reminders on my blog and in this NewsLetter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

People Are Talking

Judi Roaman is a restless ball of high-flying energy: neverendingly seeking out the best, the brightest, the quirkiest and the most style-arresting. Her new blog, The Accessorator, is one of the hottest sites in the decorating world as befits her editorial positon on House Beautiful. How thrilling that she chose to highlight