Though a tad bit early, the recent relatively mild temperatures have put some of us in the “think spring” mode. True, it might be a wishful feeling, but wishful or not, signs of spring are indeed in the air now
Unlike in the past, our mailbox is not jammed with catalogs from gardening mail-order companies nowadays; earlier, in my younger days, when I used to garden tirelessly, holiday season would barely be over when catalogs from various sources started showing up in the mail.
Ever since I planted my first Lenten Rose over a decade and a half ago, Hellebores have been one of my favorite winter blooming plants; so much so, that I have written about them several times in the past because I can’t seem to get enough.
For making wreaths to outdoor decorations to table top arrangements, evergreens, with little doubt, provide the most generously used live material – especially during the holiday season; it is no surprise, therefore, that garden centers sell fresh cut greens at this time of the year and that garden clubs organize “greens sale” as one of their projects.
Camellias are, indeed, very versatile additions to any garden, for just as cold weather arrives, the great majority of flowering plants become dormant, but not the camellias; from early fall to the middle of winter, depending upon the species, these evergreen shrubs come to life by setting spectacular blooms so much so that it is not easy for a gardener to stop at growing just one in the garden.
Prior to acquiring a potted plant about three winters back, whenever I saw a fruiting winterberry, I would drool over the bare woody branches studded with bright red berries and wished I had one growing in our yard where I could see it all the time, and also harvest some branches to bring inside for decorating purposes.
Weather, nowadays, is typical of fall: cool and crisp. Leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are beginning to show their spectacular colors before they eventually drop. Fall, with little doubt, is the time to plant, too, therefore the urge to visit garden centers rises after the brief hiatus at the tail end of summer.
Whereas the beginning and the present experience have turned out to be beyond expectation in our very first attempt to grow vegetables in raised beds, the events that took place in the middle, though now behind us, caused us a fair amount of heartache.
A good while back, when I attended a gardening seminar where one of the noted speakers was Mr. Brent Heath, a well-known authority on bulbs, I remember wanting to plant one of everything he highlighted. Back then, even though I had a lot more energy, realistically, of course, I couldn’t.
Whereas hostas are grown primarily for their spectacular foliage, I always look forward to the blooms which are usually set in early summer. Now, while most of the hostas in the neighborhood seem to be getting ready to rest until next spring
Almost four decades back, when we moved in the home we currently live in, the lot was practically bare. Moreover, the soil didn’t look very vegetation-friendly. So, we did two things once we got settled: got a load of top soil and planted trees, fruit trees in particular. And, a fig tree was one of them.
Whether purchased from a one-table produce stand or a conventional Farmers Market, fresh produce is one of summer’s greatest gifts. And, as more and more people are now becoming aware of the freshness and flavor of vegetables, berries, etc. obtained from a Farmers Markets
Heard the expression “crepe murder” made in reference to crepe myrtles? In case you haven’t, the cruel and at the same time sarcastic insinuation is made when crepe myrtles are pruned to bare limbs making them look like smooth, shiny stumps.
Being a gardener is not easy. So many choices, but at times there’s not enough space in the garden. For instance: a gardener might have always longed to grow a particular sun-loving plant; however, upon looking around in the garden, cannot seem to find the right spot.
A few summers back, when I saw a low-growing perennial in a friend’s front yard covered with dainty flowers in the most delicate shade of yellow, one of the first things I did upon returning home was to find the identity with the intent of obtaining a plant to add to our perennial garden.
Now that I can blame my senior years for forgetting things, I think it seems befitting for me to say that as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to have raised beds in our garden to grow vegetables, flowers or whatever the heart so desire...
Now that spring is here to stay, the excitement and frequency of making trips to garden centers is rising exponentially, making temptations difficult to resist; so, while easier said than done, it makes sense to assess the available space, soil and light conditions, and microclimate of different areas of the garden before yielding to temptation.
Looking for a shrub which just as spring arrives bears the most unusual flowers not only in color but form as well and smell sweet, too? Then look no further, for the Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus, also know as Carolina Allspice is the one for you.
First day of spring is just around the corner now. Even though it is still cold, we can look forward to nice, sunny days comfortable enough to step in the garden, do some tasks such as cleaning, preparing beds, planning etc.
Although I found this year’s flower and home show held annually in Richmond somewhat disappointing because of absence of several of my favorite gardening vendors, it did get me excited in the anticipation of spring.
On a cold, dreary day, few things seem more uplifting than bundling up and making an effort to step in the garden; and, while most of the vegetation is asleep or barely coming out of dormancy, I can find cheery blooms of crocus popping up at all sorts of unexpected places, a sure fix for the winter doldrums.
Being a gardener and a worrywart puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I get concerned for just about everything: a plant showing poor growth, leaves yellowing, curling or falling, and other problems houseplants tend to have.
Just the other day, as I was getting some dried Goji berries out to add to the breakfast cereal, it occurred to me how very versatile berries are: whereas summer berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are a treat for our palate and good for health too, fall and winter berries, with little doubt, are a feast for the eyes which we look forward to all year long.
January, as I understand from my copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, is the month of the ancient Roman god Janus who is depicted as looking in opposite directions. While not entirely a relevant analogy, it is interesting to note that each January, we do look ahead by making resolutions, but look back too, so as to continue the good work and avoid making mistakes made earlier.
For the special December meeting of the garden club I belong to, we met at a local garden center to hear one of the associates give pointers on taking care of holiday plants – a very season-appropriate topic indeed. And, while not a surprise, she started with a poinsettia, referring to the plant as the ‘Queen of Holiday Plants”.
A pomegranate shrub or a tree, as the case may be, I think is one of the most showy edible landscaping additions in a garden: the bright orange-red blooms that plants bear are spectacular, the foliage turns a pretty yellow in fall, and the mature fruit, aside from the exotic taste and health benefits, is so perfectly shaped that it can easily be mistaken for being not real.
The mild sunny days we recently had were truly a treat, much too pretty to stay indoors. For a gardener, being outdoors generally means catching up with yard work which, fortunately, is almost like second nature for most of us. Besides, even though the busiest gardening season is over, there are plenty of chores that need to be done in the fall.
As I began preparing this column, Sandy, the monstrous storm, was looming upon us, threatening to hit any time, bringing along torrential rain, strong winds, and the worst feared outcome – power outage.
The season, as I am preparing this column, is beginning to feel like autumn; days are getting shorter, leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are starting to lose their green color, thus heading towards flaunting fall hues, mums are loaded with flower-buds, some already opened
We have a small “tropical jungle” in a cozy nook of our side yard: It houses a large clump of the perennial white ginger lily, potted oleander and jasmine plants, and, growing in a container, a plumeria, the focal point of the area, that looks like a small but interesting tree.
Whereas hostas are grown primarily for their spectacular foliage, I look forward to the blooms that are usually set in early summer; and, even though the ones growing in our garden are late bloomers, it is worth the wait, for just as the foliage begins to show signs of summer heat distress, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.
Summer, at times, feels like a time of mixed feelings: though there is a definite sense of relief that all the planting is over with, I certainly miss the trips made earlier to various garden centers looking for the perfect plants to grow during the season.
Some time back one winter, while browsing through the catalog of a mail-order nursery, a picture of Black-eyed Susan vine growing on an arbor, in full bloom, caught my eyes; right then and there, I decided on growing one as soon as spring arrived.
According to my old dog-eared, perhaps by now outdated copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, two of the definitions given of a volunteer are: “a person who renders aid, performs a service or assumes an obligation voluntarily,” and, “ a cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed.”
Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions most gardeners have upon seeing a plant in distress, is to smother it with love in the form of either water or fertilizer or both; but unfortunately, such acts of kindness are not always what the ailing plant needs.
Upon seeing me drooling over the display of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, the 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year, at our local garden center, a senior associate casually asked me if I had a shade garden, to her chuckle, I replied instinctively “ I will find some”.
As soon as I got the e-mail about the sale, I circled the date, Friday, April 20, in red on my calendar. A first-timer to attend such a sale, I was excited like a child. In fact, my family members could tell how important this day apparently was to me as I kept mentioning it at any given chance.
Although I have to admit I haven’t done it yet, but just about every year, I like to grow the Perennial Plant of the Year selected by the Perennial Plant Association. As a matter of fact, as soon as I find out what the selection is, I start making mental plans about adding one in our garden, while looking for an appropriate planting location too.
Spring, the time of the year we eagerly wait for is here, not just on the calendar, but in the garden as well. As the camellias are completing the bloom cycle for the season, flowering trees and shrubs have burst into color, in particular the dogwoods and the azaleas.
After returning from a recent overseas trip, when on an unseasonable warm day, a record warm day to be exact, I eagerly stepped outside to check the garden. I was, first and foremost, greeted by zillions of weeds thriving everywhere, making me want to close my eyes with the hope that they will all go away on their own, which I know is not going to happen.
Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I am so fond of the winter Daphne that it is one of the few plants I do not intend to give up on; in fact, the one blooming at present in our garden is actually my fourth attempt in the last ten years or so, in trying to raise a specimen which will maintain its beauty and vigor, thus becoming a long term asset.
Though not a total surprise due to the unseasonably warm weather we have been having lately, in addition to their tendency to flower during the bleakness of winter, it is always such a delight to see spring crocuses come to bloom.
On a recent, relatively mild afternoon, as I stepped into the back yard to gather some camellia flowers for an arrangement, I literally squealed with delight when I casually glanced at the clump of our hellebore, Lenten Rose to be specific, growing in the vicinity.
When, more than one of the dinner guests we recently had, commented, as to how healthy the potted plant kept on the kitchen floor looked, it suddenly dawned on me, that I have achieved something I earlier couldn’t: keep a houseplant alive and well!
January, as I have learned from the American Heritage Dictionary, is the month of the ancient Roman god Janus who is depicted as looking in opposite directions. While not exactly a relevant analogy, it is interesting to note that each January we look ahead by making resolutions but look back as well.
Unlike most fruits, pomegranates make AN appearance on a grocer’s produce shelves for a short period only, thus making us crave for them even more; ask anyone who has had the pleasure of consuming one, and be prepared to hear what an adventure it is to reach the edible part and how unique the taste is.
Just as another gardening season has come to an end and left us a little lost, the time to make holiday wreaths and decorations is here. The cue for me to get into wreath-making mode, this season, was our visit to Colonial Williamsburg on the gorgeous Saturday following Thanksgiving Day.
As cold weather approaches, a great portion of plants in the garden become either leafless or completely dormant; but not the camellias. In fact, these striking evergreens come to life by putting forth blooms from early fall through mid-winter, depending upon the kind grown.
While still dawn on one of those warm mornings we sometimes experience in early October, when I opened a window facing our back yard, a cloud of an intoxicating scent caught me off-guard completely: tucked with the other container-grown plants sitting on the patio, the potted night-blooming jasmine was in full bloom.
Tucked near the 30-some-year-old boxwoods in our front yard, we have a forgotten magical patch. Not only is it forgotten, but neglected too; because, over the course of time, the area has been walked upon to the extent that, except for some weeds, it generally stays bare, and just recently, has had clay dirt piled all around when a portion of the bed was dug due to a plumbing problem.
Now that fall, the season to plant, is almost here, just about all of us are eager to visit garden centers, either simply to browse or look for specific shrubs, trees, or perennials to add to the landscape.
Even though the two large hostas growing in our garden are not doing as well as they used to, partly due to age and partly due to neglect, it is worth the wait to see them come to bloom. Just as the leaves, which are magnificent in spring, start to peter-out because of summer heat, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.
Although this summer so far has not been as challenging as summers can be, August always tends to test a gardener’s patience; by now we are worn out from removing weeds, making sure the annuals and perennials are tidy, and of course, keeping everything watered in the absence of a decent rain.
Recently, as I was showing the garden to our daughter and son-in-law who were visiting us from DC for the day, the interesting subject of volunteer plants came up when they asked the name of a pretty plant in full bloom.
Containers, I think, play quite an important role in a gardener’s life. As we look for unique ways to grow plants, container gardening is a great way to do it. And, not only can containers create a “movable” garden such as on a patio or a balcony, they also allow us to have color and texture at places where the soil is difficult to work with.
With the popularity of specialty produce substantially on the rise, it’s not uncommon to come across fruits and vegetables – either at farmers markets or at super markets – that seem unfamiliar or at times even intriguing.
The Bee Balm we planted a few years back is truly a survivor. Since the site where the plant was initially grown was not marked properly as it should have been, I forgot its existence and disturbed the entire area last fall while digging a hole for an encore azalea.
Named aptly because of their ability to cover bare ground, groundcovers are very versatile plants. Quite a few are low-growing, and multiply fairly rapidly to form a dense mat, not only enhancing the beauty of the garden but also discourages weeds from invading.
If you like blue, especially sky blue, then Amsonia hubrichtii is the one for you. Named the “2011 Perennial Plant of the Year,” this not-so-commonly known perennial, bearing other names such as Arkansas Blue Star or Arkansas amsonia, is sure to win the heart of gardeners once they get to know it.
With gardening season now in full swing, we come across terms in conversation or in articles written in horticulture-related publications that at times leave us a little baffled; for instance, did you know that the word “sport” might not necessarily mean football, soccer or tennis to a gardener, or that “deadheading” does not imply an act as cruel as it sounds?
Spring, the season we eagerly wait for, has arrived. Days are now getting longer, birds are chirping, looking for potential nesting sites, and most of all, the early-blooming trees, shrubs and bulbs are at their peak.
Our good friends, Jennifer and Jim Bumpas, who live down the street from us are always surprising us with their thoughtful gestures: Jennifer with her delectable baked treats, lovely fresh flowers to perk me up when a stubborn cold refuses to budge, or a plant I’ve always wanted.
Although the flower buds of our flowering quince have been slowly swelling for some time, at the first hint of winter thaw a week or so back, when the daytime temperatures became relatively mild, a few of them opened into lovely pink flowers, giving an anticipation that spring is not very far; now, more flower buds are trying to unfold along with abundant green shoots.
This past Christmas, as I excitedly began opening a gift shipped on behalf of an out-of-town relative, little did I anticipate the surprise I was in for: While the packing slip indicated a living amaryllis, the huge bulb planted in a 4-inch plastic container looked anything but living.
For last several years, my name has been struck off the lists of some of the gardening mail-order companies that used to send me their publications on a regular basis. The reason, I presume, is that I don’t order by mail as much as I did in the past.
The year 2010, evidently, was the year I finally acquired some selected holly plants I had been wanting ever since we cut down ours for various reasons. Hollies, as we know, are one of the most versatile, multipurpose landscape plants in any garden.
Poinsettias, with little doubt, are one of the favorites among holiday plants, making their grand appearance during December. Therefore, as soon as I learnt about the Poinsettia Open House scheduled for the early part of the month at Virginia State University, I marked the date on my calendar in bold red to make sure not to miss the event, especially since we have the advantage of living fairly close to the campus.
Summer berries are a treat for the plate, but fall and winter berries are a feast for the eyes, and something to play with, too. Remember helping your preschooler make popcorn and cranberry garlands during the holiday season? As cranberries are available in full swing at present, one can easily relive those special memories if one so wishes.
Though we have three well-established camellias in our garden – a japonica, a sasanqua and a third one known as the small-leaf tea camellia – I could not restrain myself from getting more after seeing a nice selection at the end-of-the-season clearance table of a local store.
Fall, l think, is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. Though relatively short, the days are delightfully crisp, especially when the sun is out, making it perfect to be outdoors. Moreover, garden work is more manageable than it tends to be in spring and summer, giving us a chance to sit and relax.
Because of the serious drought conditions that led to emergency water restrictions in our city, this year, with little doubt, has been tough on our garden. During that time, as I often looked at the plants with much sympathy, few things could have surprised me more than to find that the struggling Montauk Daisy, despite all, put forth buds that have now opened into lovely, cheerful flowers.
Would you like to have a houseplant that will not only provide a unique character to the indoors, but turn into a conversation piece, as well? Then, look for this not-so-familiar plant and watch it grow and bloom in just a short period of time.
On a picture-perfect morning a few weekends back, when a group of us master gardeners were manning a clinic for a fall fair at a local garden center, I couldn’t help glancing at the customer’s purchases as they passed by, even though a fair number of people were coming to our table with queries or concerns.
Even though the hostas growing in our garden are late bloomers, they are worth the wait. Just as the leaves, which are truly magnificent throughout spring, begin to show signs of summer heat stress, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.
Despite the fact that we had to deal with unbearable heat this summer, the fact that it’s coming to an end and we are transitioning into the fall is inspiring an unsettling feeling, a feeling to which perhaps only a gardener can relate.
Toward the tail end of each summer, I try to evaluate, for the sake of future planning, the performance of the annuals we planted in spring. Without much doubt, the excessive heat and lack of sufficient moisture can be blamed for the poor growth of some, but a tried-and-true flowering annual withstood it all this year.
This year, I have tried something different in the garden: Instead of in containers or in the ground, I have planted a few selected vegetables directly in large bags of soil! The idea, while not new by any means, evolved in rather an interesting way.
The three-digit temperatures we had several days in a row not too long ago, plus no rain, drained me out completely. Just watering the most essential took me over an hour each morning, leaving no time or energy to tend to other tasks, such as removing weeds, tidying and deadheading the plants.
Our summer flower garden is full of vibrant colors this year; the perennials are doing well, especially the daylilies, along with the annuals I have planted. The color, incidentally, is more concentrated in our back and side yards because of better growing conditions as compared to other areas of our property.
The other day, as a group of us were spending the mid-morning having a casual brunch, the conversation inadvertently turned to gardening which is not uncommon when a number of women get together. In fact, I found myself listening intently when someone brought up the subject of annuals and perennials, as the latter have always been one of my favorite plants to grow.
Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions a gardener has to seeing a plant in distress is to smother it with love and provide it with either water or fertilizer or both. Unfortunately, the act of kindness is not always what the ailing plant is asking for.
This Mother’s Day, three of my wishes were granted: First, a fresh air vent in our greenhouse, which was not functioning properly and was causing me a fair amount of concern, was taken care of promptly and precisely.
When the container that held our Encore azalea for about two years looked like it would burst at the seams, we knew it was time to find the beautiful specimen a permanent home. The task, however, was easier said than done, for just about all the available sites in our garden did not seem to fit the light requirements of an azalea, while the locations that would have suited its needs were already taken.
As day and nighttime temperatures rise, so too does the population of weeds in the garden. Frankly, it is not the ones in the lawn that frustrate me much, but rather the unwanted plants in the flower beds. Aside from being an eyesore, they compete for nutrition and moisture that is rightfully meant for the cultivated plants.
Just as the daytime temperatures begin to rise, it is not unusual for gardeners to come out of the winter weather cocoon and make a drastic change in their daily routines. Garden work becomes one of the top priorities, to the point that some other commitments are, at times, put on hold.
After being away from the country for about two-and-a-half weeks, when the severe wintery weather we had was still the talk of the town, I couldn’t have been more pleased to find spring-like weather to welcome us back and our almost-forgotten patch of Iris reticulata in full bloom.
Our good friends, Jennifer and Jim Bumpas, live down the street from us and are always surprising us with their thoughtful gestures: Jennifer with either her delectable baked treats, lovely fresh flowers to perk me up when a stubborn cold virus refused to budge, or a plant I always wanted. While Jim, a passionate wood turner, who I have often found working in their...
While the bulk of the snow has melted, the leftover piles that can be seen here and there are a reminder of the blizzard-like snowstorm we had. Though it was not nearly as intense as the back-to-back storms folks north of us got, ours turned out to be quite a big deal, too.