June 27, 2012

Plant of the month:
Tall Bearded Iris

Do you ever regret missing out on the bloom time or the peak display time for a plant? Perhaps the time passes too quickly and you're too busy when it happens. Or some other factor causes you to miss the show.

Iris germanica

For me, this year it was the Irises. The ones in my garden didn't bloom, probably because they need to be divided, or because of late April frost/freezes after a warm March. The Irises in my garden are big, beautiful bearded Irises that my friend, Jan, passed along several years ago. They smell like grapes and they usually bloom in early June.

Based on their characteristics, I'm guessing the cultivar is 'Madame Chereau' or 'Stepping Out'heirloom German Bearded Irises that grow to about 40 inches in height.

Bearded Irises prefer well-drained soil, in partial or full sun, according to the American Iris Society (AIS). They need at least a few hours of sun each day. My friend, Elaine, taught me to plant them very shallowly, and the AIS says to keep the tops of the rhizomes exposed, with only light mulching.

Overcrowded Irises need to be dug up, divided, and replanted every few yearspreferably in late summer or early fall. I'm looking forward to that task, and the chance to encourage new blooms for next year.

So, I missed out on this favorite plant for this year. But not really, because I was able to enjoy flowering Irises of many varieties on display in New Orleans during our trip there in March. Most of the Irises I captured were beardless. I don't have IDs on these.

There are about 300 species of Irises and numerous hybrids and cultivars, according to the Pacific Bulb Society. Bearded, beardless, ruffled, flat, German, Dutch, Siberian, Japanese...and even Louisianas, native to the American Gulf Coast.

For more information about Irises of all varieties, visit the American Iris Society and The Society for Louisiana Irises websites.

June 20, 2012

Strange spring stories

It seems odd to be discussing lessons learned from the spring, when springtime weather is long-gone. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, I know some of you, too, have reported unusual weather this past season. I can't believe tomorrow is the first full day of summer herewe've had hot weather for weeks!

We're in a bit of a drought here in Dane County, Wisconsin. It has rained north, south, east, and west of here, but the soil here is cracking and crops are languishing. Dane County is among the most bountiful agricultural counties in the Midwest. But the farmers are more nervous with each passing day without rain. Adding high winds and 90+ temperatures for several days makes the outlook even more concerning.

I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but the grass has gone dormant. That's OK, but some of the new plants need a deep drink. The Cotoneaster in the foreground is doing just fine and I haven't watered it at all. But it likes to dry out between waterings.

The established perennials in the backyard look like they typically do this time of year, but they're in deep shade. Unfortunately, they're showing signs of stress, too. I'll keep you posted on the rainfall, but in the meantime I've been watering potted plants, new perennials, and the kitchen garden regularlyto stay ahead of the drought.

And yet, this post is about garden lessons learned in the crazy season we're just now exiting. Thank you to those who participated in the meme! Bloggers who linked in included:

Karin at Southern Meadows. I thought spring was early here, but Karin says her spring weather began in February and quickly morphed to the 90s in early May. Her No.1 advice rings true for me: Don't think you can outsmart Mother Nature! Karin's plans for a late harvest of cool season vegetables didn't work out exactly as planned. Karin's post also includes some excellent lessons and photo captures of caterpillars and snakes!

Girl Sprout NM. She offers a creative take on combining memes in one post. And she cautions: If you decide to plant fussy trees, be ready for the consequences. Unfortunately, one of her Aspens has a canker disease. She advises being grateful for the benefits of weather anomalies, and preparing for the extra care plants need during a drought. Take a look at her impressive square-foot garden.

Michelle at The Sage Butterfly. I must admit, her advice is so important, but sometimes quite difficult to do: Breathe purposefully. The ground never froze in Michelle's garden during the winter, so spring was on hyper drive when it hit. She advises us to accept what comes, realize nature rules, and acknowledge that change is good!

Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys. Sunflowers are the highlight of Holley's lessons. It's the first year she has planted them, and she can't wait to get out in the vegetable garden each day. Holley's advice: Grow something fun in your vegetable garden. And make sure you drink a soda now and then. To find out why, check out her post!

Donna at Garden's Eye View. Donna also covered several memes in her post. Among her lessons: Even an experienced gardener like Donna can admit that she doesn't have it all under control. "I am now convinced that I don't know what a typical spring means anymore," she says. "I need to be more like the frog and just go with it." Donna has also discovered the joys of early morning gardening—out of necessity because of the heat.

Rose at Prairie Rose's Garden. The most encouraging part of Rose's post is the lesson about individual creativity and personality in the garden. She attended the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Asheville, N.C., and says the most important lesson she learned there is that no two gardens are the same, and it's OK to bend the "rules" to reflect your own personal style. "It took seeing so many different gardens over the course of a few short days, each with their own special style," she says, "to realize that I don't have to copy someone else's garden, and that my small and often chaotic garden is just fine."

Please visit these excellent posts—I guarantee you'll enjoy them, and you'll learn something new in the process. And check out the comments section on the "lessons learned" post for more garden suggestions and observations. Did I miss anyone? If so, let me know and I'll add you in.

I'm a little distracted and worried about my garden and the local farmers' crops. We need rain. I realize this drought can't compare with the one in the south last year, but I can see it must have been tough. As I write this, a thunderstorm is about to hit, but we'll need more. It's too early in the summer for the plants to dry out...

June 16, 2012

Foliage from the heart of my garden

Have you ever noticed how many plants have heart-shaped foliage? It really hit me the other day, and it seemed like a good theme for Pam's Foliage Follow-Up meme.

I was walking around the garden and noticed a heart, and then another one, and another.... This really should be a Valentine's Day post, I guess. But there isn't much foliage around here on Valentine's Day. So let's take a look.

Caladium is probably the most dramatic example. Stunning, huge heart-shaped leaves greet me from the planter on the front porch.

Pretty Wood Violet lines the shaded walkway.

Hostas of all sizes and colors dot the landscape in the front, back, and side gardens.

Ligularia offers a spiky-edged heart (sounds like a good title for a novel or a ballad).

Cucumber: Who would have thought its foliage was heart-shaped? (Or is that a Hollyhock? See Rose's comment below.)

Hyacinth Bean...well, it's sort of heart-shaped.

Coleus is more like a teardrop, but it holds a red heart.

Dwarf Lilac appears heart-shaped from this angle.

And one of my favorites of all—Redbud provides a canopy of sun-filtering hearts on hot summer days.

Who'd have thought there were so many hearts in the garden. And this is just a small sample!

My next post will be a wrap-up of the "Lessons Learned" meme—at the solstice on Wed., June 20. Join in if you can! It's always fun to share garden lessons from around the globe. Leave a comment about lessons you learned in the past season, or click here or on the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of the page. Happy Summer!

June 13, 2012

Update on Grandpa’s Roses

The Roses have been spectacular this year—if short-lived.

This raggedy Rose was especially colorful and bright before the blooms faded. I don’t know what cultivar it is because it wasn’t marked when we moved here many years ago. It’s a pretty Rose, though, while it lasts.

This is all that’s left of the blooms on another Rose bush with pretty bright red flowers that were so heavy this year they folded over onto the mulch below.

But my favorite Rose is the one my great-grandfather grafted in the mid-19th Century: ‘Sweet Mary.’ To read more about it, check out this post from last summer. The family looks forward each year to the days when its sweet scent fills the air. It’s not a flashy Rose, but oh, it smells fantastic. Many of us have cuttings from the original plant, cultivated on a farm in south central Minnesota.

We also donated ‘Sweet Mary’ Roses to Old World Wisconsin in Eagle. It’s a living history museum, with buildings, homes, gardens, and authentically dressed characters from Wisconsin’s early settlements. Dad, Mom (both work at Old World), my sister, my hubby, and I trekked over to Old World a couple of weeks ago to find out how the Roses (planted last year) are doing.

Here they are in front of the Raspberry School. Can you see them?

Zooming in a little closer…

The Roses were a little past prime, but they’re still thriving. Yay!

While we were there, we enjoyed some of Old World’s other plants and gardens.

Lots of critters, including pigs and sheep.

I like this shot of Little Lamb next to a Lamb’s Ear plant.

Dad posed with Laura, the lead interpreter.

Then we headed back to Dad and Mom’s place, where we were entertained by hummingbirds and ground squirrels.

And another view of ‘Sweet Mary.’

It was a great day. And so encouraging that Grandpa’s Roses live on in so many gardens for family and others to enjoy.

June 06, 2012

Seasonal celebrations: the plants of summer!

Ah, summertime! As a child in Indiana, and later in northern Wisconsin, I always looked forward to summertime. It was my favorite season, and I guess it still is!

There's nothing better than spending a day at the lake or in the pool with family and close friends. So as I write this Seasonal Celebrations post to join in with Donna's excellent meme, I'm looking forward to some quality time on the water.

This is, however, a blog about plants. So to tie it all together, here's a list of some of my favorite summertime plants:

Daylilies: Mine are starting to bloom, and I've noticed other bloggers posting about their Daylilies, too. If you don't have Daylilies in your garden, I highly recommend them. With minimal care, they provide pops of color on hot summer days when other plants aren't as showy.

Black Raspberries: I can't wait to pick 'em and bake with 'em! We have a sizable patch up at our vacation property. They're so sweet and tasty—whether consumed fresh or in berry desserts.

Roses: I don't have many Roses in my garden, but they certainly signify summer for me. In this northern climate, the season for Roses is way too short! I'm researching organic pest control for Roses so I can add more to my garden.

Hydrangeas: They're about to bloom! That must sound so funny to some of you who've had blooming Hydrangeas for several weeks now. Actually, mine are early like everything else, and the bushes sure are healthy and lush this year!

Cosmos, Zinnias, Snapdragons, and Liatris: It will be a while before my cut flower garden produces enough blooms for a bouquet. But all of a sudden after a few hot days, I'll walk out into the garden in the morning and harvest a bucketful! I can't wait!

Ah, summertime! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy a cool iced Tea on the veranda...


Please join in the “Lessons Learned” meme by including a link to your post in the comments. Or, you can click on the “Lessons Learned” tab at the top of this page. The Mr. Linky widget will be live until the solstice—when I’ll do a wrap-up post about all our lessons. And join Donna at Garden's Eye View for “Seasonal Celebrations.” You can combine the two in one post, or link to them separately.