Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The List Revisited

A couple of months ago I published my spring garden plant shuffling to-do "list".  To recap let's just say that every year I move a *few* plants.  The list is an attempt to prioritize the annual migration and get ahead of the curve.  Below is the list as it looked when I first created it in January, a page as fresh and clean as the ideas it contained.

Below is the list as it stands today, scribbled on and slightly tattered by progress.  I added a few more plants and a category for new plant acquisitions to reflect an order I placed with Plant Delights last week.  Stars prioritize shrubs and trees which I want to concentrate on first while they're still dormant.    

Although I had hoped to be further along by now, mother nature has had other plans.  Late spring snow has lingered longer than usual due to weeks of below average temperatures.  Even when the temperatures do crawl into the 40s, they are often accompanied by cold brisk winds.  Hope is on the horizon for the upcoming weekend though and I have Friday off.   



Plant removals are proceeding as planned.  Sometimes it takes a while but once I make the decision to bid a plant farewell, I don't mess around.  Truth be told I am waffling a little on the Corylus though.  So far I've pruned out the back third and I keep trying to convince myself that I can make it work.  But a plant of that caliber deserves a site where it can strut it's stuff and the current spot is not that place so I really just need to bit the bullet.

Last weekend I removed Rosa 'Carefree Sunshine' from the middle of this very visible garden along side the patio.  Next to go is Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow' .  Based on the research I've done, this plant prefers more shade than sun and although it does not get full sun in this garden it clearly gets too much.  Either that or it's just a dud.  Time will tell.  Pearls of wisdom from anyone growing it successfully would be greatly appreciated.

Believe it or not but I have no definite idea about what to plant in this now available real estate.  I'm starting to see visions of a Ensete maurelii or Colocasia 'Diamond Head' as a focal point centered in a large decorative container.  Stay tuned...

For comparative purposes, here's a a picture of this garden taken last July.  Like most of my patio plantings, choices lean heavily towards annuals, tropicals and tender perennials. 

At the opposite end, I grow a variety of shade perennials.  The tree is a beautiful specimen Acer palmatum 'Katsura', one of my favorite plants in the garden.  During a freak snow storm in October 2011, it suffered fairly extensive damage including multiple split trunks.  Except to prune out snapped branches, I left it alone and so far it's doing quite well.   

Last spring I shuffled some of the plants in this garden around which stunted them slightly.  By late June everything was starting to fill in nicely and none of the impatiens had succumbed to blight yet.  This season I expect the perennials will fill in the space almost completely.  Now if I can just leave well enough alone, maybe I won't miss the impatiens.

A few plants from the list, like late additions Hibiscus syriacus 'Sugar Tip' and Cornus sericea 'Silver and Gold', are listed not because I'm unhappy with them in their current spots but because I think they would show off better under different conditions.  If I don't find what I think will be the perfect home elsewhere in the garden, they will stay put-at least for this year.

Fortunately the majority of my perennials have yet to show signs of life.  A cold spring is the weekend gardener's friend.  Next week I'm taking a chance and having the gutters on my house replaced.  Don't tell anyone I said this but I'm hoping the chilly weather persists at least until then so as many plants stay dormant as possible.  If my front shade garden gets trampled I'll need to be sedated.  Perhaps liberal use of crime scene tape around the area will do the trick.

One of the moves from my list that I'm excited about is the replacement of a damaged and diseased Viburnum with a previously poorly placed (try to say that three times fast) variegated Eleutherococcus.


Use your imagination and humor me here.  Wouldn't a fountain of white and green variegated foliage make the perfect textural contrast and really brighten up this spot?  Last year I made a decision to remove some gardens and simplify the ones that remained in front so I would have more time to concentrate on the gardens on the sides and in back of my house where I spend the majority of what little leisure time I have.  So far I have yet to reap any rewards from that shift.  Maybe this will be the year.

Just a quick note regarding the Tetrapanax I have listed under new plant acquisitions...I plan to grow this hardy in the ground.  Plant Delights has it listed as zone 7b and I'm zone 6a/b.  However Louis Raymond (Louis the Plant Geek) grows one hardy in the ground in nearby coastal Rhode Island (probably a solid zone 6b). 

A few years ago local zone pushing plant geek, Steve Silk gave me a small Tetrapanax to try.  Because it was later in the season I decided to over winter it in the garage which turned out to be a bad decision.  Steve has had one growing for ten years in his garden in nearby Farmington.  I've already chosen a spot on the south wall of my shed where the protection and drainage should be sufficient.  If you have any additional advice on growing Tetrapanax, I'm all ears.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Winter Walk Off 2013

Les, at A Tidewater Gardener is hosting a series called Winter Walk Off, a chance for bloggers from all over a the globe to showcase part of their world on foot.  Since it sounds like fun and I'm always up for a little fun, I decided to participate.

The rules are simple: "On your own two feet, leave the house and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home (if you want to drive to your walk that's OK too). Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue, unless you want it to be. Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping or local eyesores. Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative and have fun, but don't show anything from your own garden.".

Although I considered walking from my house, I can't imagine that would have turned out to be anything more than a big snooze fest.  When I do walk, which is often, I usually drive down to the center of town (less than 10 minutes) and park.  My town was founded in 1634 and is quite proud of it's historic landmarks.  Many of the homes and businesses that were built in the 1700 and 1800s and have been preserved and restored.

To begin my walk I parked in front of the salon where they work tirelessly to keep me preserved and looking my best.  Notice the empty planting containers and a barren cafe table.  Conditions around here continue to be too chilly to encourage people outdoors and the last frost date is still about a two months away.  Weather for my walk off was overcast and a raw 40 F.  Where the heck is spring? 

Next to the salon is this tiny deli.  Good food but limited hours-breakfast and lunch only.

From the deli we head down Main Street and out of downtown.  Many homes along the way display Historic Society plaques.  This one reads: May/Bulkeley House c. 1750.

Usually when I walk around town I cover about five mostly residential miles.  Within that area I only pass a handful of homes where someone appears to spend significant time gardening.  One of the gardens is located along the route I chose for this walk.  The garden has been open for both town garden club tours and the Garden Conservancy Open Days.  She has a diverse shade garden along the sidewalk but it's still sleeping and has not been cleaned up for the season.  Most of the garden is hidden by evergreen hedges.  Here's a quick peek I took through the gate.

Traffic stop and island gardens are located in a few key spots around town.  They are meticulously maintained by volunteers.  As you can see, it's too early for much in the way of garden interest around here.

Continuing down Main Street we pass yet another row of homes.  Every few years the Historical Society has a house tour.  Generally what people who own these houses do is keep the original home intact and construct an addition off the back where they typically have a family room, maybe a master bedroom suite, and a kitchen that doesn't require them to build a fire under the cauldron in the walk in fireplace to boil water.  Not my style, but to each his own.

After about a ten minute walk Main Street ends at the Connecticut River.  The Wethersfield Cove is a popular recreation spot for fishing, boat launching, and parking by the water.  Unfortunately the water quality isn't great so swimming is out but no one seems to mind.

In case you're wondering, Canadian geese are everywhere in central CT.  The Cove is probably one of the few places where they are welcome.

Could this flock of birds have been any more cooperative?

Located on the brink of the flood zone is this preserved maritime warehouse from the 1690s.  I have literally seen the water right up to the top of the foundation.  Now a museum, it is open for tours on weekends during the summer months.

On my way back down main Street I passed this fun formal garden.  You can't tell from the picture but the suspended "snowflakes" are lit.

Bamboo growing along roads is unusual around here.  This stand is growing along the side of a drainage ditch in the shadow of the interstate highway.  I've been tempted to grab a chunk of the variegated variety.  So far good sense has prevailed.

What the heck is this?  Not sure I would want it in full view of my house.

On the way back to town I passed some interesting front door decor.  Most people have yet to remove their winter wreaths and swags.  In fact I'm just starting to get rid of mine.

More historic homes.  Some are not quite as old-late 1800s maybe.

Not many homes can boast a wagon on the front lawn.

On the site where this private home now stands was the Stillman Tavern, a hostelry during the Revolutionary War.

Getting back into the commercial part of town again-The Chas C. Hart Seed Company has been in business since 1892 and is still run by the Hart family.

Further down Main Street and pretty much smack dab in the center of town is First Church, another Wethersfield landmark.

A cross walk cuts through this traffic island garden area.  In the background across the street is the very popular Village Pizza.

Next on the walk is our local tavern and a personal favorite of mine, Lucky Lou's.  In the 25 years I've lived in the area, this restaurant has changed hands many times.  Lucky's has been the most successful to date.  The building is town owned and leased to a restaurant proprietor with certain conditions about how they can modify the structure and what sort of hours they need to be open.   

Either I've never noticed this fountain before or it's a new addition.  Let's go with the new addition theory. 

As soon as the weather cooperates, the outdoor patio at Lucky's will be open again.  Last year the patio was doubled in size.  On most nights it's fairly busy.  On the nights they have live entertainment it's hopping.  On a summer night, this is a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a light dinner.

Just beyond Lucky's is the Hurlbert-Dunham House.  Until I researched it for this post I had no idea why it was significant.  If you want to read an interesting take on the place, click HERE.

On to the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center.  Home to one of my favorite annual events-The Taste of Wethersfield.

The Fountain of Service is not yet up and running for the season.  In the memorial garden I discovered this wonderful sculptured bird bath. 

At this point I crossed the street and started heading back to the car.  My next stop was the Colonial Revival Garden at the Webb-Deane Stevens Museum.  If you want to see what this garden looks like when things are actually growing, check out the link.  Consider this representative of garden interest in the area at this time of the year.  What a difference a couple of months makes.

Old meets new-sorta kinda.

At the rear of the property is the Webb Barn which is available to rent for events and is a popular wedding reception venue.  One night when I was enjoying the patio at Lucky Lou's a bride and groom with their wedding party walked over after their reception ended, ordered drinks and started passing out leftover cupcakes.  What a fun bunch of people! 

Next we pass my yoga studio.  A stiff back reminds me that there have not been enough Namastes in my weekly routine lately.

Conveniently located right next door to the yoga studio is Aroma Bistro, another good breakfast/lunch joint.  In case you haven't noticed, food is popular in Old Wethersfield but I guess that's the case just about anywhere.

Further down the street is Comstock Ferre, New England's oldest seed company.  For a number of years Comstock was a vibrant garden center under the same ownership local wholesale plant seller, Sunny Border Nurseries.  A few years ago it started to go into decline and was eventually purchased by Missouri based Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Although the new owners have cleaned up the property and have done much to restore the historic buildings, to my great disappointment the nursery no longer exists.

Another change made by the new owner was to paint the color of the barn blue and white instead of the signature red it had been for many years.  Change is inevitable I guess and a worthwhile trade off for buildings with such a presence in town from falling into disrepair.  Still I miss the red barn and the garden center it represented. 

My walk ends at yet another popular spot in town, the Main Street Creamery, recently reopened for the season.  On this particular day I was not craving ice cream but as warm weather returns there will be plenty of time to kick back in one of those wicker chairs and enjoy.

Someone at the creamery enjoys gardening.  Usually they have at least a few colorful containers and mixed plantings.

So there you have it.  As I sit here and write, we are getting hit with yet another winter snow storm.  Although it's not unheard of to get snow in mid March, it is somewhat unusual.  Winter in central CT is usually pretty much asses and elbows by now but not this year.  Tonight the news reported that last year at this time we had already had more than ten days in March with temperatures over 50 F.  So far this year we've had none.  Not one.

Thanks Les for creating an opportunity to get out and get the stink off.