Late May in the garden

We’re in the garden’s annual purple phase, dominated by the Siberian irises. I’ve spread them out so there are many clumps. I wish I could be as successful dividing the amsonia (or finding more). I need to thin out the black-eyed Susans and hope that will let the Walkers Low take off.

purple 2016

This year we have some white Siberian irises in one spot as well as lots of purple ones. I can’t remember where those came from, but I’ll be looking to spread them out over the next few years.

white and purple siberian irises

The first red-hot poker is blooming. (Yes, those are more Siberian irises behind it, and some yellow irises of some kind to the left.)

red hot pokers may 2016

Last weekend it looked like this:

red hot poker almost in bloom 2016

The next plant to bloom is likely to be this peony. Yes, more Siberian irises. You want some?

peony about to bloom

Some alliums that I thought had disappeared are back. But just some of them. I want to move these out of an ignored far-back bed:


We’ve also got these alliums:

alliums bells

These dianthus along the front walkway really look much more pink. I want to extend their section of the border (and get them off the walkway):



Mid-June in the garden

I’m looking out the window and seeing rabbits in a neighbor’s yard. Just don’t let me see the groundhog! We have at least two, and they have done enough damage in the raised beds.

Still, tomato plants are generally thriving, and I’m hopeful we’ll have some early ones in time for the Fourth of July. Zucchini and potato plants are shooting up. My favorite flower, rose campion, is blooming, as is another favorite, red-hot poker (a little late, I think, but then spring was late and started off cool). And I’m excited about this new red-yellow Rudbeckia that blooms much earlier than the traditional yellow black-eyed Susan. I’m guessing it comes from one of two places where I plucked a flower head and then planted it. I’m hoping it spreads like crazy.

Here’s a look at some of what’s blooming in the garden just a few days before the official start of summer:

Yellow and red Rudbeckia
What a beaut!

red hot pokers

Rose campions are in lots of places:

Rose campion

Rose campion and coreopsis

Rose campion, coreopsis and tiger day lilies

Day lilies above and below:

red daylily
Hope this spreads too

stella d'oro daylilies

The first of the many coneflowers to come:


A faded allium:


A new addition to the hosta collection:

hosta late may new kind

Going purple

The garden is starting its purple phase.

This is how part of one flower bed looks:

siberian irises and birdbath

We also have some pale blue-purple amsonia in the front that is starting to bloom. I really like the feathery foliage. It makes a nice contrast to the sturdier leaves of other plants nearby.

amsonia may 2013

These alliums (bulgaricum) are delicate, too. Wonder how many globes we’ll get this time.


Not everything is purple, of course. The hostas are busting out. We’ve got all kinds, and last fall I added some yellow/blue ones from a neighbor. I’m still amazed that the deer haven’t found them and demolished them. The plants in this first one definitely could use some dividing and sharing, and the second one isn’t far behind.

lots of hostas


It’s Finally Winter

daffodils peak throughIt snowed yesterday for the first time this winter, just a couple of inches (I’m leaving out the freak white stuff just before Halloween). So while we’ve had a few really cold days, this is the first time it really feels like winter. Not that it will last long — it is supposed to hit 50 on Monday and Tuesday (and maybe that’s why the township didn’t bother plowing neighborhood streets).

I’m trying to decide if these wild swings between cold and unseasonably mild that we’ve had for the last two months are a good thing or not for the garden. Some of our daffodils have been peaking out for the better part of a month, and I keep scurrying over to the pile of leftover mulch to cover them up, wanting to protect them from when the next change in the weather. But the Brit tells me Mike McGrath (his garden guru, from You Bet Your Garden on NPR) says it’s no problem and they won’t suffer from all this.

I hope so because I spent some time in September/October creating yet another flower bed, linking two small beds along the driveway. A couple of the neighborhood kids came over, intrigued, as I was spreading newspaper as weed killer and then topping it with mulch to keep the paper from blowing away. Naturally I put them to work. Not that it lasted long.

Then my favorite bulb sale happened at Van Engelen. The beetroot red/purple Woodstock hyacinths were on sale for 25% off and I knew I couldn’t wait to see if there would be a second, 4o% off sale a week later and if they would still be around (there was and they were). I bought two packs of 25. And since I was paying for shipping anyway, I kept going. I ended up with 100 blue allium azureum, 100 tear-dropped allium bulgaricum and 50 Professor Einstein daffodils (in honor of being so close to Princeton, plus they’re white with a flat reddish-orange crown–good contrast to the yellow that dominates) and three rose-pink peony plants from there, plus a bag of 10 white daffodils with a bright orange trumpet called multiflowering Narcissus Tazetta. Whew! Only 310 bulbs, not the 325 I thought there were!

I swore I would share some, but of course I didn’t. They’re all in the ground, many of them in this new bed that still needs plants for the remaining bloom time. (I can see that being lots of black-eyed Susans and rose campions because that is what I have in abundance, though am grateful for other suggestions, preferably flowers that can survive deer and groundhogs. Looks like I will miss my favorite master gardeners’ plant sale for a nephew’s first communion.) I’m hoping the azureum will add a wrinkle to the purple that dominates in May, though they apparently really bloom in June. In that case, they’ll just be part of the riot of color that is our cottage garden. Same goes with the greenish-white (and touch of purple) bulgaricum, a May/June bloomer. The hyacinths should pop among all the daffodils in April; I just hope that I found the right balance of scattering them and concentrating them so they don’t look lost among all the yellow.

The Brit started talking about the vegetable garden yesterday … that’s next.

How I created the new flower bed: Step one is to mow the grass–scalp it, really– with the mower’s lowest height setting. That left a nub of grass (and weeds) that’s frankly too much work to pull out, especially given the size of this bed (random guess: 10 feet by four feet). The trick is to smother everything with cardboard and/or several layers of newspaper. They will rot down (newspaper is faster, but I’ve got all winter), and you get a blank loose canvas.

creating a new flower bed
I mowed with the lowest setting on the mower, then started covering to kill whatever's left
I then piled on the mulch to keep the newspaper from blowing everywhere. Plus it'll rot down too.

Purple May

The garden has gone from yellow (with hundreds of daffodils) to heavily purple. Purple columbines, purple catmint, purple Siberian irises, purple alliums that are starting to bloom.

There’s also white bearded irisis (the purple and yellow ones in the “iris bed” were flattened by last weekend’s winds, a few white daisies and a scattering of other flowers. Here’s a look at what’s in bloom: