Sunday, February 26, 2017

snow day

After weeks of warm weather, the temperatures have dropped to something more seasonal. There's a dusting of snow today. Unfortunately, this was not soon enough to keep the Helleborus niger cultivar flowers from turning green. I'm suspicious that it might not actually be the temperatures, but pollination. During that warm spell, the bees were so happy to find something and they were very busy. It makes sense that the flowers would fade after pollination, since there is no longer need to attract pollinators.
I just noticed the hoards of seedlings coming up under 'Jacob.' I wonder how many will survive? I certainly can't use all of them. Most of them died last year.

It's time for the later Hellebores to show their stuff.
While most hellbore flowers are pendant, 'Connie' was bred to have outfacing flowers, to better appreciate the interior spotting. Some flowers are outfacing, many are still pendant.

 The NoID hellebore that was the first plant I planted when I purchased this house, is starting to bloom.
 You are supposed to cut the ragged winter leaves of the H. x orientalis hybrids, but I don't even though they are not that attractive. I want my plants to get as much energy as possible, since my climate is a harsh one for them. Maybe when they get bigger, I'll do it.

In another week or two, he'll be better.

The H. x ballardiae 'Pink Frost' is starting to bloom. This is the plant that I brought from my old house. I struggled with it in there, and I struggled with it here until I found this spot. It seems much happier after the misery of transplanting and dividing. Hellebores hate that.
 It is certainly not as showy as I've seen some plants, but it sure is a lot better than last year.
 And hellebores grow slowly. I'm not sure if it is just here, or if it everywhere, but here they are very slow.
 Later in the season, the flowers will turn a sold dark murky pink, but for now, they are light.

The tree peony began leafing out with the warm weather. What amazing resilience to adverse weather. I like how the emerging leaves look like praying hands...

or maybe Munch's "Scream." Hmm...not the image I'd like to keep.
This might be a better comparison.

The mahonias that appeared out of nowhere (bird droppings I assume) have grown large enough to put out some buds.  Bloom in another couple weeks, I expect.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

landscape vs. garden

I was working in the garden yesterday, moving rosebushes, amending the soil for their new locations and reworking the drip irrigation system. As is my usual tendency, I had a lot of angst over whether what I was creating looked designed or if I was just a "plunker", the term garden designers use for people who buy pretty things and plunk them into the garden with no plan for design (not to be confused with "plonker" which is a British insult which I will not even attempt to define, but is similarly a derogatory term). Am I just a plunker? I wondered as I hacked my 'Radio Times' rose out from the clutches of the pine tree roots. Did I spend 4 years getting my Master's degree in Landscape Architecture to just be a plunker? I spent a lot of time getting things like line and form and form follows function and limited plant palette drilled into my head. I spent a lot of time looking at how people move through a space and studying theory of landscape architecture, studying theory of theory or metatheory of landscape architecture, for heaven's sake! All that and my garden is a plunker's garden!?

But what's wrong with being a plunker anyway? My mother is a plunker, and her garden is well known for being the most beautiful in her neighborhood, if not the city. In California. Strangers stop by her postage stamp garden to compliment it, and walkers make a point of going by her end of the cul-de-sac to see her garden. Even more important is that she enjoys her garden. Was I so arrogant as to believe that I was better than a lowly plunker because of my education? Or was it some childish or teenage attempt to separate from my parents? Or was it the attitude of my education that design was somehow better than gardening?

Then it dawned on me. Perhaps what I am is a gardener. It didn't matter if I was a plunker or some other level of gardening, what mattered was that I garden. I was supremely pleased that I came to that conclusion. I would have patted myself on the back if my hands were not full of dirt and steer manure. But as I was nestling my 'Radio Times' into her new, well manured and well-dug location, something felt wrong. That nagging feeling stayed with me while I amended the soil, ran drip lines and transplanted 'Jude the Obscure', 'Princess Alexandra of Kent', 'Tranquility' (NOT to be confused with 'Tranquillity'), 'Fabulous!', and 'Anne's Beautiful Daughter.'

My consolation was to turn to my bookshelf. I have perhaps 200 books on gardens, plants and design, and these are the books that are left over after I moved across country and culled about half of them. I have hundreds of magazines: Garden Design that I have saved and filed chronologically since 1996, Horticulture Magazine from 1995, and more. I have read every book, and every magazine on my bookshelf cover to cover. I pulled out several of my favorite issues, some of them worn and with pages nearly falling out from the many times that I've re-read the stories like a child's book of fairy tales. Then the truth finally hit. The reason I was struggling with the idea of being a gardener, is because it was the truth, but only part of the truth.

A blog that I follow made this entry:

Two pink roses: what's the difference? That's 'Bishop's Castle' (Austin, 2007) on the left, and 'Mrs. B. R. Cant' (Cant & Sons, 1901) on the right. They're both roses, both quite fragrant, both pink. One is a new(ish) David Austin rose, which you buy because you see a drop-dead gorgeous photo in the drop-dead gorgeous David Austin catalog, and think, "I want that!". The other is a rose from over 100 years ago, which someone gives you a snippet of for free, saying, "This will root if you stick it in the ground."Do you spend a fair amount of money (plus shipping! and tax! and in this state, tax on the shipping!) for 'Bishop's Castle', because a gorgeous glossy photo has affected your judgement on the virtues of thriftiness? Or do you take the free snippet of 'Mrs. B. R.', and spend 4 years patiently nurturing it until it is big and strong enough to produce those gorgeous flowers? Which one does the true rosarian choose? Easy. Both of them

Am I a gardener or a designer? Easy. I'm both. Some parts or my garden are more designed landscape. Others are more adventurous. But there is always the gardener in my designed spaces, and there is always the designer in my plunking. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

second wave of hellebores

 The fading of the crystalline flowers of 'Champion' and the H. niger clan signals the beginning of the H. x hybridus clan. I don't have many, since I mostly value the mid-winter blooms of H. niger, but the second wave happens at the same time as the earliest crocuses, which is pretty cool at this time of the year.

 Here is 'Connie' just starting to show her stuff.

 The nodding flowers of hellebores encourages me to go out in to the garden. Although you can appreciate the charm from a distance (i.e. from the warmth of the house), to fully appreciate their beauty, you have to go into the garden, and lift the flowers.

'Joseph Lemper' is still going strong, his flowers are bigger and taller than those of 'Jacob'.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

jacob, joseph and nell

Jacob, my earliest hellebore, is fading. That spell of warm weather really had them fading to pink and green. It feels like they blew fast, but then again, they started coming out at Thanksgiving. I shouldn't complain about 2 months of bloom.

This is my "new Jacob" whose flowers had trouble clearing the leaves. I assume this was due to being in brighter conditions, so that the leaves were upright.

And here is my "old Jacob." The first plant I bought, in shadier conditions, the leaves stretch out and the blooms form a nosegay in the center.

'Champion' is a hybrid that I purchased mislabeled as 'Jacob' (I never trust big box stores, so this was no surprise). It opens with a green tone to the flowers that becomes more widespread as the flowers age and fade. I'm not that fond of the color, but the flowers have a nice crisp form and very durable wax-like texture.

Another H. niger cultivar, 'Nell Lewis', from Pine Knot. This one has been slow to grow for me. Only this year (after 3 years) has it had a decent flower. Maybe I need to fertilize. Flowers are larger than 'Jacob'. As you can see, bees have no trouble finding hellebore flowers.

'Joseph Lemper' is the brother of 'Jacob', but rather different in character. Flowers are larger, and less numerous. He also seems to be less vigorous, at least for me.
Although hellebores come in many different styles and colors, I'm most fond of the crystal white and very early H. niger cultivars. My H. orientalis hybrids will bloom in another month and even of those, I only grow the white ones. Hey, it's what I like. Maybe one day I'll branch out into other colors. There are some delicious ones at Pine Knot.