Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oh what a difference two weeks makes

Hyacinths are hoppin', bulbs are bloomin'.

Two weeks ago:

One week ago:


I'm anxious to get out there and plant the vegetable potager (below), but we could still have a frost (came close last night). I've cleaned up the beds and mixed in this year's compost. The rose standard appears to have survived the winter fine. I was nervous about it. One miniature boxwood, toward the front in the photo, looks like it may not make it.

The espaliered apple trees, which are to be trained along the green wire to create a "fence" around the raised bed are rabbit-chewed. I'm now hoping for some new lead branches to grow in strong while the rabbit(s) have plenty of other good things to eat.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Espalier emergency. Maybe you can help.

The best of times the worst of times.
Above are shots from today (left) and last April 28 (right). Left to right are the dwarf plum, dwarf apple and two dwarf pear trees. I've found three problems with my espaliers I haven't come across in its first five years. Maybe you can help me save my trees.

Somebunnies been munching on it.
Seen above. Wascally wabbits is my best guess. I'm land-locked urban, so my natural predators are squirrels, rabbits, birds, cats and the occasional kid. Kids don't chew fruit trees do they? The only solution I can think of of to acquire a taste for rarebit.

Aphids have taken over the plum tree!
This seems even more serious. We noticed the dwarf pear trees are budding nicely, but the apple & plum aren't faring as well. Upon closer inspection, the rough bark on the plum wasn't rough bark, but a coating of aphids. I've sprayed the majority off. I was even out there with a sponge wiping them off the parts of branches I can't get with the hose (my neighbors think I'm garden obsessive already, so wiping trees with a sponge might not have shocked them). I plan to do this every other day until I'm satisfied they're gone. I'll try soapy water. I'll even buy some aphid killer. What do you suggest?

What are these?
What are these big old crusty knotty things on my dwarf apple tree? They're rough, bulbous and plentiful, on the lower branches/trunk. Are they harmful? Will they grow more? Will they take over the tree? Are they a disease? Is it communicable? Can they read minds? What can I do to stop them?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The EPA's Rain Garden

Last week in Washington, on Tuesday, in the rain, we sloshed by the Environmental Protection Agency's Washington office. They have a rain garden between building and sidewalk! Of course it's the government that brought you "Advanced Interrogation Techniques" so they refer to it as a "Bioretention Cell." Sounds like a cell of bio-terrorists.

The rain garden comes complete with interpretive signage.

The purpose is to have the garden act like a sponge to absorb storm water runoff. Underneath the garden are a drainage pipe and bed of gravel topped with porous soil and mulch. The plantings are both water and drought-tolerant (??), and keep soil from compaction. All we saw was this great display of tulips, trees, shrub and grass. I'd love to see what other plants–the perennials–they have for this garden. And I'd like to see them when it's not raining.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

George Washington's Spring Garden

Everything looks cheerful, except for the pre-teen sitting n the bench, not happy about having to stand in line an hour to tour the mansion. In the background is Washington's greenhouse.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and the occasional impressive Crown Imperial Fritillaria–classic spring bulbs for a classic American garden. Shown is the Upper Garden, mostly flowers and some vegetables, restored to the bed sizes from Washington's day.

Bulbs beneath espaliers. There were espaliers all over the place - probably a couple dozen. That's something George and I have in common. That and a hot wife. Martha was a babe in her younger years.

We went to visit Mount Vernon last week and caught what might be the peak of color in the spring bulb gardens there. I have no idea if these were anything close to what the first president had originally intended, but it certainly was colorful.

Great lookin' Crown Imperials. I've not had much luck with those here on my estate.

Hey, did you know that at the time George Washington was inaugurated as the first president, he only had one tooth? We saw his dentures. They're not made of wood. They're made of lead, and human & animal teeth. Gross.

I'll get to posting about his other gardens at Mount Vernon in the future–Washington's farm(s) and fishing of the Potomac, made Mount Vernon one of the first large agribusinesses, and the source of his wealth (one would argue, the source of his wealth was the 200-some slaves he owned–316 at the time of his death). He was among the top 2% of the richest Americans at the time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lungwort and the Show-Offs

Pulmonaria, otherwise known as Lungwort, Soldiers and Sailors, Spotted dog, Joseph and Mary, Jerusalem Cowslip, Bethlehem Sage, 肺草属 fei cao shu (they're Asian!) are among the first spring flowers, chez Charlier. These small jewels bedazzle one of the front beds and are some of my favorite early spring flowers.

Scene-stealing attention hogs in front of the sedate pulmonaria.

Unfortunately the perky, self-righteous, showy, must-be-seen, screaming-for-attention daffodils are in the bed directly in front of them, so the lungwort don't get the attention they deserve. The daffodils shout spring and are noticeable in a drive-by. The lungwort, low-to-the-ground, dignified, quietly announcing the change of seasons, is a traffic-stopper for the stop-and-smell-the-roses crowd. Daffodils are more like the fast food of flowers. Just my opinion. You can start arguing now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden Blogger Bloom Day April

Okay, if you're dedicated, please try to follow. It's the fifteenth. And I'm not here.

Now, it's Saturday, April 11, when I AM here. I sit and look out my window at the daffodils which WILL be in bloom on the fifteenth (today), but then (now), I'll be in Washington, D.C. seeing the last of the cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom last week (which is now for me).

These photos are of the two blooms I do have now, which, will be dead by the time you see them here. An in-house bloom and an out-house bloom, so to speak.

The top photo is the hibiscus, currently (now and last week) a houseplant. I've found that if you haven't watered your hibiscus in too long, the blossoms fall off almost the same time they bloom.

The bottom photo is miniature iris I don't remember planting, and I don't remember ever having seen before. It is right by my front steps though, so I can admire it every time I leave or enter the house. Even though it's dead now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Dyngus Day!

Witamy! Dyngus Day (the day after Easter, sometimes called Wet Monday) may not be a big holiday in your neck of the woods, but here in Buffalo, with its large Polish-American population, it's as big as St. Patrick's Day. It's a post-Lent Polish tradition dating back centuries. The flowering shoots of pussy willow are used in Europe and America for spring decoration on Palm Sunday as a replacement for palm branches, which don't grow this far north.

At after-lent parties, boys spritz water at the interest of their affection. Girls return their interest (if they are indeed interested) in the tapping of the boys with pussy willow branches. This is a charming, mellow version of the buckets of water & branch swatting of days of old.

Many U.S. communities with large Polish populations celebrate the holiday, like Chicago and cities in Michigan & Indiana. But Buffalo claims the largest celebration in the country with parades, parties, polka concerts and shuttle buses in between them all. Many pierogies and kielbasa will be consumed. And much Obolon & Tyskie beers and Sobieski vodka will be drunk.

If you happen to get caught unawares at a Dyngus Day party, here's a helpful guide to commonly used Polish sayings that can get you out of (or into) most Dyngus Day situations:

How are you? - Jak sie masz?
Good Day - Dzien dobry
Thank you - Dziekuja
Please - Prosze
Cheers! - Nazdrowie!
Let’s Dance - Zatanczymy
You're Beautiful - Jestes tak piekna
I like you - Lubie Cie
I like beer - Lubie pivo
I want you - Pragne Cie
I love you - Kocham Cie
Let’s get married - Ozenmy sie
I’m broke - Nie mam pieniedzy
I have a headache - Boli mnie glowa

For any other Polish translations, like some good dirty words, you'll have to ask Ewa in the Garden.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Big Miniature Garden

This is the largest little garden found in Germany's Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, a model railroad exhibit that covers multiple rooms on multiple floors in the warehouse district of Hamburg.

Gardeners, putting in a little time, on this tiny maze garden tableau.

I don't know if this is a replica of an existing garden, but the design and detail are such that it easily could be. My last post about this exhibition, with shots of the little individual gardens can be found here.

The formal gardens include boxwood mazes and parterre gardens populated with people, no bigger than a fingernail. The little gardeners are clipping hedges, carting wheelbarrows, raking, hoeing and mowing. You know, doing a little gardening work. Garden visitors are walking, picnicking and jogging. There's even a little tiny film crew shooting something.

This gardener, on the road to visit the garden seen above, is obviously having some car troubles. It's not hard to guess that the model railroad builders are men, huh?

If you ever get to Hamburg, it's worth a visit. We just read in our newspaper last week that this miniature railroad exhibit, started by twin brothers, is on its way to becoming Germany's most-visited tourist site.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Shakespeare's Garden

New Place Garden, Shakespeare's mulberry tree.

It's been a while since my visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, but my wife took these photos last week. I post for you here–Shakespeare's home & garden, his birthplace home & garden, and his wife, Anne Hathaway's house & garden.

Nash House, next door to where Shakespeare's house once stood. This is the entrance to the grounds where major gardens now stand.

Above and to the right are photos from the Nash House (now a Stratford-upon-Avon history museum), next door to where Shakespeare lived, called New Place. He lived here from 1610 until he died, in 1616. At the time it was built, it was the second largest building in Stratford. The site of New Place (reported to cost 60 pounds in 1597, now it costs 10 pounds for entry to the museum), is now an Elizabethan knott garden, a typical garden of Shakespeare's time, most likely in the spot where his own orchard and kitchen garden were. These gardens were planted in the 1920s.

Since these shots were taken at a bad time of the year, the photo at the left shows the garden during it's peak. So you can see what it's supposed to look like.

There's a mulberry tree in the center of the very large garden, said to be a cutting from an original mulberry Shakespeare planted in roughly the same spot. Here you can find not only the colorful, herb-filled, formal knott garden, but free access to a topiary garden and English-style gardens throughout a large park called Great Garden at New Place.

Shakespeare's birthplace.

Shakespeare's birthplace (born in 1564) is another site worth visiting. It is the home of his family & father, John's, glove-making workshop. He spent his first five years with Anne Hathaway in this house. Behind this building are some nice gardens not ventured into on this trip. Not much to see this early in the season. You'll find, in this garden, plants and trees mentioned throughout his plays.

This thatched roof "cottage" actually a large home with 14 rooms.

Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway's cottage is one of the most picturesque homes in all of England. The beautiful, rather large, home (her family's home) has gorgeous English gardens and paths through 90 acres of woods & orchards surrounding it. There's also a tree garden, planted in honor of Shakespeare. Paths Shakespeare would have wandered while courting Anne. This is in Shottery, just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon.

It is said that A Midsummer's Night Dream was first performed under this tree.

Now there are "Shakespeare Gardens" planted throughout the world (in many university gardens, Central Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden, Johannesburg, Vienna, and dozens more), usually incorporating plants from his works (rosemary, roses, pansies, fennel, columbine, rue, daisies, violets and mulberry–more than 80 plants in total). They often have signage with relevant quotes relating to the plants displayed. They often are geometric in layout and composed of boxwood dividers. For more information on how to plant your own Shakespeare garden, and a longer list of Shakespearean plants, visit this post by The GreenMan, I found.

If you ever get to England, Stratford-upon-Avon is a must-see. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more lovely town in all of England. From the ancient Tudor-style buildings to unbelievable gardens to the swans on the picturesque Avon, the views are idyllic.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Garden Games

Here's two different takes on the same game I've found. The one on top is from a display at Plantasia, our local gardening show. The checkers set below was found on the Black Rock & Riverside Tour of Gardens last Fall.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You gardeners should be behind bars

If the displays at last week's garden show, Plantasia, are any indication, you should be behind a bar outside, whether it be a breakfast bar, grill bar, tiki bar or bar-bar.

Is there a Tiki-bar trend no one's told me about?

This is Western New York's big garden show for the year and the largest displays of creativity (there were probably 6-8 large displays) were not by nurseries or garden designers necessarily, but by "landscrapers" – builders of stone, tile & concrete patios and decking. Of the exhibitors, there were four that Incorporated some sort of bar for drinking and socializing. There is another show locally–a home & garden show. I would think that many of these exhibitors should be there as well.

This one had built-in barflies.

The most imposing of the displays was a Tuscan-themed, tree-trunk-columned, trellis complex of rooms including an outdoor living room (with fireplace, mantle, coffee table and overstuffed furniture); a dining room (with wooden dining table to seat 12, chandelier, and huge floral centerpiece); and kitchen (with requisite grill, ample counter space, wine chiller, refrigerator, pizza oven and another fireplace). The plant material was nominal and incidental. It looked like an interior room made to look "outdoorsy." Or a small apartment with no bathroom. This is where everyone was taking pictures with camera phones. The whole excessive outdoor room thing with flat-screen TVs and outdoor wine coolers is so very BEFORE the economic meltdown. Seems like these are the sorts of things you'd find in AIG executive's yard.

Dining area of the Tuscan-themed outdoor "complex."

I do wish the nurseries had some of the larger displays – but I know they also don't have the budgets or staff to spend potentially tens of thousands of dollars in design, materials, labor, shipping and fees to enter a four-day show like this. Also, some of the most innovative and successful landscape designers in the area don't take part–they survive on commercial landscaping where larger-scale commissions are the norm. Not humble gardeners like myself or the zombie-paced crowds wandering this particular garden show.

The pizza oven in the kitchen of the Tuscan-themed outdoor "complex."

Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated has a post up about her love/hate affair with this garden show, reflecting on the cinder block waterfall complete with a flat-screen TV on its mantle, overabundance of interlocking bricks and fire pits (unattainable for law-abiding city dwellers). I'm surprised the GWI garden doesn't have a bar. Oh, there's plenty of drinks there, don't get me wrong, I've been there. But no bar.

Garden Walk Buffalo
had a booth again this year and committed committee members sat duty for the four days. I was there for opening day (busy!) and closing day (busy!). They throw us in the back room with the other non-profits and the "kids play area." But the cost is low–we are there, primarily, to troll for addresses and emails for our newsletter and e-newsletter. Last year we collected 450+ addresses for our database. Directly across from our booth was the Toro mower sales booth. It was basically a line-up of supercharged, riding barc-o-loungers with cup holders and deadly-whirring-blades. Any man's fantasy. Well, man with a grass habit.

The beautiful model (she looks like her father) at the Garden Walk booth was showing off her Harry Potter Garden in a gardening magazine. Start 'em young! Gardening that is. Not modeling.

It is very enjoyable to work the booth, as 95% of the people stopping by our booth have been on Garden Walk (and already own the Garden Walk Buffalo Book/DVD). The other 5% have heard of us and want more information. 100% are very nice and wonderful to talk to. It is odd to talk to people that know my back yard VERY well.

The best part is when someone will ask what the walk is like and another person just standing by the table looking through magazines will turn around and tell them how wonderful it is to get into the backyards of these grand homes & small cottages and see what creativity the gardeners have. And how nice the gardeners are. And that they can't miss it. We sit back and listen in. The best salespeople are the ones that've gone on the Walk.


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