Friday, January 22, 2010

Forestfarm 2010 Catalog

I just made a note for myself at my desk and was struck, yet again, by the fact that I have the brand new Forestfarm catalog sitting there, waiting for me...and I haven't even cracked it open yet!

No wait, that's a lie, I did look at the photo pages in the front to check out the pet photos :-)

I love this catalog, and like Katherine S. White, I'm a big fan of nursery catalogs, in general. Forestfarm is wonderful - so many plants and they grow them there. These people have such an amazing bank of knowledge. And they share it in their catalog. How cool is that?!

So as for me and the catalog, usually I curl up with the catalog, a mug of tea and a pen and start reading. I can't wait to find out things I didn't know about a plant, plants new to me, things I've forgotten - I just love new ideas and am an information addict.

I keep all the old catalogs, too. Since they grow their own plants their catalogs change and I do refer back for information on a plant. This year's catalog is bigger and I can't wait to find out if that means they have even more plants in there!

Check it out - they have great prices, too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Texture in the Garden

Verbascum bombyciferum. First year foliage.

Just came across these photos taken this past November. I was struck by similaries and differences and just how beautiful and amazing the plant world is.

'Nero di Toscana' Kale

wildly different textures...

Rapini or Broccoli Rabe

different shades of green

Centaurea cyanus or Bachelors Buttons

Wake Me When It's Spring!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Create Captivating Plant Combinations, or Have Daylily, Will Travel

I've been going through my photos from last summer, trying to organize (we're supposed to get organized in January, right?!). I came across a series I took one mid-summer afternoon of a daylily that came with my house. Since I don't know it's name I call it 'Liberty'. All I know is that it is an older variety, planted more than 25 years ago. I have also found that while I like it...I'm not sure why because I feel like no matter where I move it or combine it with its color fights with something!

So, inspired by Vita Sackville-West, I plucked a bloom and wandered about the grounds... yeah. Because my house and garden look so much like Sissinghurst. I hear it all the time.

Let me start over.

I picked a flower and walked around looking for possible companions in spots I know the daylily will be happy. Daylilies are easy, full sun to part shade (the more sun the more flowers) and nearly any soil conditions, though diminished flowering in hot, dry spots. Here are some of the photos I took!

with Rudbeckia. I like this, the daylily's color doesn't look muddy

with Daylily 'Paprika Velvet'. 'Liberty' looks a little muddy, however, the deep rich orange does a little blendy thing I like. And I like daylilies with other daylilies. Perhaps a yellow...

with tiger lilies. Doesn't grab me. I was thinking orange, burgundy spots...oh well. Not bad but not fab, either.

with a yellow variegated vinca. I kind of like this. And it's the start of a theme...

with apple green Hosta plantiginea, Heuchera 'Palace Purple', chartreuse Sagina subulata 'Aurea' aka Scotch Moss

with Hosta 'Frances Williams' and Amsonia

with Euonymus 'Emerald and Gold'

with Hosta plantiginea and Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

I'm still not sure I love the daylily with anything. It looks ok in several photos but after looking at it for so many years I know what happens to me when I look at it in my garden. It has a lot of brown that to my eye falls flat at certain times of the day and if I see it anywhere near pink my eyes bleed. I may try it up front with all the greens and yellows but I may also decide it's time to let it go. Maybe someone else would like it better and let it shine in their garden!

This is one way to play. As I wrote above, I learned this while reading articles of Vita Sackville-West's. She would wander around with a bloom, looking for other plants to combine and make the most of all present. And I know from reading of many other wonderful gardeners, they do this as well.

And while you're out walking around, take some photos - they give you the perspective to observe things like a plant's form and texture and how it combines and contrasts with surrounding plants, and allows you to learn to trust your eye, to know what you find pleasing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Garden Volunteers Part II

This is the second post to follow up with more reseeders I employ each growing season in my garden. For Part I click here.

Nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll' with Perilla frutescens off to right

Nigella is one of those plants I tried growing for years with no success. I'd sow seed again and again and if I got one plant that would be it, with no reseeding for the next season. I'm a sucker for blue and reseeders as well so this really vexed me! Enough to keep trying! Finally, after nearly a decade, it has established itself in a few areas of my garden. I love its ability to mingle well with other plants. I scatter its seed as it ripens, throughout the growing season, so I always seem to have some blooming, making me happy.

Perilla, on the other hand, has never had any problems establishing itself. It will reseed readily and grow nearly anywhere, sun to shade. I like burgundy foliage and use perilla in bouquets, as well. It is technically an herb, though I personally couldn't imagine eating it. I have gotten used to its smell although I'm not sure I really enjoy it. I can remember one visitor seeing it growing in my garden and telling me - insisting - it was purple basil. Then she plucked a leaf and chewed it. She didn't say much after that!

Pink Hollyhocks with Clematis 'Jackmanii'

This was one of the joys of my summer! I had no idea these hollyhocks would be rosy pink. I've had 'The Watchman' which is black, and 'Creme de Cassis' which is a mix of cream and burgundy. Neither variety is nearly as tall as these - well over my head. I might be exaggerating when I say ten feet tall, but they seemed like it! I now have quite a few babies around this mother plant from deadheadings. Much to look forward to!

Portulaca aka Moss Rose, Calendula, purple Verbena, Teucrium 'Purple Tails'

Not the greatest photo but some more of my favorites. I'll start with the portulaca. This reseeds freely for me between the crevices in my patio. A good lesson I learned from my mom. She pays attention to these things. The happy coincidence here is the color, echoing the calendula. I had no idea what color the blooms would be when I moved the portulaca here.

That's something else. I move many volunteers through most of the growing season. I try to look for rain in the forecast - the combination of a good soaking and overcast skies works magic. If it is hot and sunny I will put up a little shade for the plants with bamboo stakes, burlap and clothespins. If it's also windy I'll drape the burlap down close to the ground for even more protection from stress. And then I leave this not so pretty but useful protection up for a few days.

Another move from the patio's crevices is the purple verbena. This plant came from my mom along with that genius lesson. I don't know if it is hardy here - I don't know its name to look it up - but it reseeds for me every year this way. This coming year I'm going to grow it amongst my bearded irises. I loved it when I saw the two grown together around the drive court at Mettawa Manor, the amazing home of Bill Curtis and Donna LaPietra, a few years ago while visiting during Open Days . I tried this combination this past season, not so outstanding with all the rain and cool weather. Next year!

The other plant, not blooming, pictured near center, is Teucrium 'Purple Tails'. Hmm, not sure of a common name. It does look like mint, to which it is related. I have grown this for several years, best on a slope. Then I had to move it because I just knew I would like it better somewhere else and it did not make it through the winter - though it did reseed. Another lesson, winter drainage. At any rate, next year this perennial will bloom in a color I call dusty purple - greyed out a bit. Very similar in color to Salvia 'Purple Rain', if you are familiar with that one. It blooms and blooms, a doer. Piet Oudolf used a Teucrium in the amazing garden he designed along with Jacqueline van der Kloet for the Seasonal Walk at the New York Botanical Garden (seriously, check it out, this is amazing and I can't get enough!)

Eryngium planum

Steel blue and striking. This one never fails to get the attention of non-gardeners and gardeners alike. There are also other varieties which I believe do not reseed - a bonus as this plant has a long taproot and can easily be propagated by taking root cuttings. Which for me means if I try to dig it up I leave bits of root behind and the plant will return. Sigh. I'd like to try E. 'Sapphire' - if anyone has grown it, let me know. Maybe there is another I need to try, too - I seem to remember there is an olivey colored one? Give your suggestions!!!

Euphorbia marginata, or Snow on the Mountain

This is another that took more than a few tries to get it to establish itself, now I have drifts. Grows to maybe waist high and looks so fresh late in the summer! If you grow it, be careful when touching the plant. All euphorbs are poisonous - it's actually the sap inside the stem that irritates. Especially your eyes if you rub them after working with this plant. Not that I would know personally;-)

Verbena bonariensis

I really have a thing for this plant. Which is good as it reseeds readily. It blooms from sometime later in July thru frosts. I use it a lot in bouquets and throughout the garden. It has provenance, too. Now, it's been growing in my garden for years and before that my mom's, but prior to us, the very seed that sprouts in our gardens each year happens to be the offspring of seed that grew in nature activist Lorrie Otto's Wisconsin garden who in turn got her seed from Christopher Lloyd. Oh yes, as in Great Dixter . The very place, and man, who made Verbena bon so popular. I'm also a big fan of his and hers so I get some pleasure out of all this. And that is what gardening is all about, anyway - pleasure. Connections.

I have also found that even over and above Butterfly Bush the butterflies flock to this plant. Late summer I can sit on my patio and count numerous Monarchs and Yellow Swallowtails enjoying their feasting. Hummingbirds like it, too.

Echinacea, Larkspur, Cleome, Nicotiana langsdorfii

All of these reseed for me, for years I left the seedheads of Echinacea intact, for the birds. This has resulted in nice clumps and drifts in a few places in my garden. No complaints, Echinacea is a trouble-free plant for me and I like it in the garden as well as in bouquets. I deadhead now, occasionally dropping a seedhead or two if I'd like more plants. I have E. 'White Swan', also. It is not as vigorous and I'd like more. I'm thinking of trying some of the newer varieties - some of which have been developed by Piet Oudolf - 'Green Jewel', 'Virgin', 'Vintage Wine' and 'Fatal Attraction'. Has anyone tried them? What do you think?

Cleome is fun one, its large ball shaped flowers float above other plants from midsummer on. I think my plants are 'Rose Queen', originally purchased ages ago. I'd be willing to bet from Pinetree Garden Seeds. This is a reliable reseeder, not too rampant, although I usually weed out more than I keep. It looks good in drifts or with a few sprinkled through a border.

Nicotianas are a favorite of mine. I love their colors, especially N. mutabilis. N. langsdorfii reseeds reliably for me, more so in the patio cracks. N. mutabilis I have to make sure I save...and I usually start it indoors, the earlier the better as I have had years when it doesn't bloom until so late in the season that it's barely started blooming and the frosts hit it. One of my favorite combinations is N. langs with the above mentioned Verbena bon - the butterflies and hummingbirds like this combo, too!

Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue' with Marigold 'Cottage Red'

Late in the season, early October, actually. Love the punch. Another reseeder (especially in cracks!), though I believe if you are just a zone warmer than I am (Zone 6 for you) this will overwinter. I've actually had it overwinter for me and now that I think of it the plants were on a slope near the south side of my house which tends to be a microclimate. Good winter drainage and warmth. Hmmm...and I'd been only remembering it may have been a milder winter. Last summer I thought it did pretty well deciding to come up by this great Marigold I picked up at Target, a Burpee's Fordhook Collection seed selection. I'm hoping this is a reseeder, I really loved it. The ferny foliage and purple tinged stems next to a nursery planting of Sedum 'Purple Emperor' and S. 'Matrona' in the veg garden constantly caught my admiration even before the orangey red flowers constantly caught my eye! I also love that it's taller (30" so says the seed packet) and bushy.

So those are a few of my volunteers I rely on, I'd love to hear what volunteers you love to look forward to each year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Garden Volunteers

Myosotis (aka Forget-me-not) 'Blue Ball'

I have many, many plants in my garden. This one, pictured above, is about as close to a weed as you can get. Perhaps to some it is a weed, though I'd never consider it one. It reseeds freely and I encourage this. I let lots of it go to seed, letting some fall where it may and then I pull the dried stalks of seedheads and lay them down in other places I'd like it to bloom for me the following spring. I suppose technically it is a biennial - foliage first year then flowers the next - but I have had it my garden long enough that I hardly pay attention, I no longer have a spring without it. I have the straight species as well, it came with the garden. I like it just as much, for different reasons. It doesn't seed about as much, it winds and weaves around other plants and it blooms later in the summer and into fall.

Dill with Centaurea cyanus aka Bachelor's Buttons

Dill is another plant I allow to reseed. I love the color of the flower and its effect, I love the smell of the foliage. Actually, the foliage is pretty great to look at, as well. Lacy and see through. Mostly it grows in the veg garden but also here and there through other borders. It reseeds freely as well and to me weeding it is no chore as it smells so wonderful to pull.

The Bachelor's Buttons are another I love. I am a sucker for blue. I used to have a black one that reseeded as well and I'll have it again, knowing this time to save the seed! The blue with the burgundy was wonderful. Great cut flowers and if you take the time to deadhead you will have blooms all season. They also have the added benefit of blooming both early and late in the season.

Calendulas, Papaver somniferum aka breadseed poppy and snapdragons

I love that the above photo shows a planting I never would have thought to put together - with the punchiest colors. School bus yellow calendulas and snapdragons with pink poppies and snapdragons. Cheeky.
All these plants reseed, the poppies and calendulas freely, the snaps well enough. Usually with snapdragons I leave the deadheadings on the ground next to the plant as I work. I prefer the tall ones which is funny because both the plants and the seed are harder to find. I always have at least a few of the deep red 'Black Prince' and always mean to look for other varieties that do not come in a mix. If you have any sources, let me know!

Breadseed poppy and pale pink malva

Two pinks. One more of a melon, the other with a touch of lavender. I am not even sure of the Malva's name, I suppose it could be a Lavatera. Either way, related to the Hollyhock. I believe it came from my mom's garden as a stowaway on another plant (as seed). She says this looks like a Malva she originally purchased from White Flower Farm. It grows to about two feet and about as wide and will rebloom if you deadhead. Which is a good idea as it reseeds some and has a long taproot that requires a good rain to make it easy to pull. Perennial.

Breadseed Poppy

Isn't this a beautiful color combination? And I just love the jagged edges. I started out with one variety of Breadseeds, 'Single Danish Flag'. Beautiful red flowers with white where the above poppy is purple and then that startling bright green center. I want to say I ordered the seed from Then I found Hungarian Breadseed Poppies from and as my husband is Hungarian, well, I couldn't pass them up. They are shades of mauve. I've grown both varieties for years and they have crossbred, creating some that look like one parent or the other and some that are uniquely wonderful like this one. I also have 'Lauren's Grape' which, from what I have read, comes true from seed.

Consolida ambigua, or, Larkspur

I love larkspur. Delphiniums melt in our wild midwest summers - not that that stops me - but larkspur is like a great old reliable friend. I have a lot of it, it reseeds freely for me. It grows tall, to maybe four feet if it is happy and will also grow in a decent amount of shade, I have found. It peaks around mid-summer and is good in bouquets. I used to be very picky and only want the blue but I've loosened up in more recent years. Looking at this photo, I might rethink that and stick with the blue. Every once in awhile some will come up that are that wonderful electric cobalt like a delphinium and those are my favorite.

Silene armeria with Sedum 'Matrona'

This Silene is another that reseeds freely. However, given the fact that this plant will bloom from mid-summer on due to reseeding thruout the growing season, it is a favorite of mine. Plus it is a strident shade of pink. I like that. To me, it goes with everything just because it has such confidence of color. Look below and see what I mean. Do you agree? I'd love to know what you think.

Silene armeria with California Poppies

Totally unplanned, yet this was one of my favorite combinations this past season. Good thing as I saw a lot of it. This happened to be right out my back door and I am in and out with the dog and garden all day!

I have had California Poppies growing in this space for awhile and enjoy them - recently I learned the secret to their success. Being poppies they really aren't suitable for transplanting. What they want is to be sown on cold ground. Now I knew this with breadseeds, I direct sow them in February. I could have sworn I'd tried this with California poppies in other areas of my garden and perhaps I did. Sometimes I do not have successes which is why I keep trying - variables during a year are variable year to year! I'll try it again, I am eager to have California poppies in other colors in other hot dry areas of the garden. has several that are mouthwatering. That's where I found the tip about direct sowing on cold ground.

That's enough for today, I actually need to go out and shovel snow! Stay tuned for another upcoming post on its way with more of my favorite garden volunteers!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saving Seed

Dill with poppy seedhead, Sweet Pea 'Captain of the Blues' and the smidge of orange middle right is Calendula 'Touch of Red', in bud

Before I can even seriously consider my seed order - which at this point is still a wish list - better yet, a dream-on list...where would I grow all these seedlings? where would I plant all these seedlings? how much space do I really think I have?

wait, sorry.

let me start over.

Before I can even seriously consider my seed order, first I need to go through all the seed I have saved. I thought I was pretty genius this past growing season and instead of simply letting things reseed willy nilly and surprising me I decided to take control and save seed so I could decide where things would grow. Novel concept. Let's just say I like my garden all full of surprises. Last July, a local Garden Club member, much to my delight, called my garden a serendipity true. I'm hoping I have learned a great many lessons from watching what reseeds where and with whom and can plan near as well as Mother Nature. She thrills me every year.

My seed saving method is straight forward; let the plant go to seed, let the seed ripen on the plant, collect the seed, store it and keep it dry until ready to sow. Labeling obviously optional! I am somewhat casual in my approach...

I grow a large mix of plants and have a pretty good basic knowledge of which I can start from seed - some won't come true - and if I ever have questions I turn to the internet or my collection of various reference materials.

I'll be posting a list of what I have saved as soon as I have a little time to go through it all...

I would love to know what you do - and what seed you take the time to save.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

This song has been stuck in my head along with I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (sung by Billie Holliday, wouldn't you know) for the past several IS cold outside! And to compensate, I have been immersed as much as possible in garden. My love.

Garden photos, plans, dreams, dream I thought I'd share a few photos from early in this past season and hopefully spread the garden love. Warm it up a bit.

Clematis 'The President' with Prunus x cistena

Myosotis 'Blue Ball' with Viola 'King Henry' and Sedum acre

Centranthus rubra aka Jupiter's Beard