Friday, April 12, 2013


This time a year ago we had already been tree- and shrub-shopping for a month and had begun to realize our plan for restoring a three-dimensional look to the landscape here.  We had removed a lot of overgrown, ill-placed, or trash trees in our first year on this sloping, pie-shaped lot.  The arrival of three fringe trees, three river birches, two dura-birches, three Japanese maples, two ninebarks, three magnolia trees, a black gum tree, a witch hazel tree, three blue spruce bushes, lilacs, hydrangeas, potentillas, a fathergill and a tiger eye sumac all provided joy that quickly mixed with anxiety.

Heat and drought settled in and threatened to kill the water-loving birches.  In mid-July we bought "tree gator" water collars for all the trees and shrubs and brought them back to life within two weeks.  But in October, as a result of constructing a new landing at the front door, we had to dig out and re-pot the tiger eye sumac and hope for the best.  Here is what "best" looks like!

A week of warm days have triggered the emergence of new growth, and I can now plant this tree with confidence.

You might notice a scape forming on the potted daylily to the northeast of the tiger eye sumac.  That is ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN, a new introduction from Karol Emmerich's greenhouse in Minnesota.  Karol did me the favor of sending that plant in March, knowing I wanted the pollen for liberal use in the garden this season.  Had I waited for delivery in late April, I'm fairly sure that Karol would have had to cut the scape to fit the plant into the box.

She had called this daylily one of her best ever.  I remember the pleasure several years ago of buying her "best ever," HEARTBEAT OF HEAVEN.  It cost a bundle, as "best ever" does, and I have never regretted having that beautiful creation in my garden.

I might as well show the other pots in that line.

These arrived last week, and I was not about to plant any of them because we can still have a frost until mid-April.  Dan Trimmer's WAVES OF JOY, another "best ever" plant, is in that line with a scape that will give me pollen in another week or two.  I will let these prize plants bloom in the pots and then plant them in the garden.

All of these arrived from Florida.  I had a large garbage can of recycled Pro Mix BX and just about ran out of it to pot these plants.

More huge boxes arrived this week, and I decided to hold them for planting in buckets of water.  I'm going to put those into the garden starting Monday or Tuesday.  Meanwhile, dozens more will trickle in.

Back near the brick wall you might notice another scape.  Guy Pierce (Floyd Cove Nursery) took pains to preserve that scape on his "best ever" introduction, BLUE WRANGLER.  Chances are, the plant will sustain the scape after planting and there will be a second scape later in the season.

I got my "line-out" beds cleared of weeds last week, applied Preen to fight new weeds, and watered in the Preen.  Then we had a good rain.  The plants and trees have been superbly watered by Mother Nature this year!

This is a line of plants that shows the beauty of dormant foliage as it rises in the spring.  The plants are a seedling of mine from (Tarta x America's Most Wanted) X Michael Miller.

I'm going to collapse this line of plants into a single clump in my keeper bed for use in breeding.  The line-out bed is for possible "futures," and this one didn't make the cut for reasons of floral color.

What color is this?  I call it "oatmeal," though it is some kind of melon blend with scant value in a garden.  However, the plant structure is excellent, and it is the parent of my clearest rose pink seedling, shown below.

I want to make a lot of new crosses on my oatmeal seedling to discover whether it is truly a "doll-maker."

Here's another vigorous dormant plant, a seedling from my VINCERO! X Whatley's DELIBERATE PACE.

My friend, Mary Baker bought this seedling--the entire row of it--to use in the campus landscaping of North Dakota State University.  She plans to register it as BISON VICTORY, and she's letting me keep one plant.  Most of the divisions in this line are increasing just like this.

I have a powerful liking for the appearance of dormant foliage when it emerges in the spring.  My eye goes immediately to these plants because they are ready to provide beauty at the start of the growing season.  Here's a beautiful example of a daylily that makes a great clump, Bart Beck's DUSTY BLUE.

I've never met Bart Beck, but I bought DUSTY BLUE on the Lily Auction several years ago and have been quite impressed with the stature and beauty of the plant when in bloom.  The plant habit is outstanding and the flowers are perfection.  Except....they haven't set pods for me.  No matter; I can use the pollen and get the same results.

Here is the mixed look of an Evergreen daylily emerging in early spring, Jack Carpenter's PATSY CARPENTER.

The older fan that grew foliage last season and into the winter is just behind the plant label.  You can see how the new growth is trying to throw off the "boiled lettuce" look of the leaves that were killed by winter freezing.  The unblemished fan to the left is new growth.  It emerged after the freezing and so is undamaged.

A few days ago our new daffodil collection began to bloom.  I'm glad I got a few pictures because the heavy weather night before last pushed them all down into the mud!  This is Dave Niswonger's beautiful EARLY TO RISE.

In a week or two our small peony collection will come into bloom.  The earliest we grow is named HAWAIIAN CORAL, and it looks fully leafed out today.

We grow one tree peony, which my friend Oscie Whatley ordered for me in 2005 a couple of months before he passed away.  It's named RENKAKU (Flight of Cranes).  Oscie grew that one to perfection and he knew I admired it above all others.  The plant Oscie gave me did not survive the move from University City, so I replaced it last fall from a peony farm in Centre County, Pennsylvania, near my alma mater, Penn State.

There are some new varieties on the market now called Itoh peonies.  They are the result of crossing tree ponies with standard peonies.  They have strong stems and large flowers.  I bought two Itoh peonies at nurseries last spring and watered like crazy during the drought.

This variety is named YUMI (Beauty).  Some shoots are emerging from the ground, just like a standard peony, but some are also emerging from the bottom of last year's stems.  It is a thrill to see these plants renewing themselves.

Although we have more daylilies than any other plant, it's the "other" plants that keep us active as "gardeners."  We enjoy learning about the special needs of Siberian and Japanese Irises, of peonies, butterfly bushes, baptisias, hardy geraniums, hostas, and chrysanthemums.  We grow these plants for the beauty of their forms, their leaves, the butterflies and hummingbirds they attract, their fragrance, and their personalities in the garden.  

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