friday surprise


This popped up in a mature bed and I nearly got rid of it. Sometimes sloth pays. I have no idea what it is, but I see a few of them along the roadside. Guess it must be a native. Ideas? I’m also going to call it my favorite this week, because I love surprises.


Now for a little of this and a little of that. Our neighbor lost this cedar tree in the last big windstorm.


After sawing the greater part of the trunk into logs (there in the background), the rest got ground into chips and those chips got dropped onto our side of the fence (I told you Jim is a great and generous neighbor). Three guesses how I have been spending my time. That prodigious pile of chips means many trips with the wheelbarrow. I don’t think I have ever done quite such a thorough job of mulching.

Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'

The first Ceanothus to bloom is ‘Blue Jeans’.


Delusional Drive was planned to depend on foliage for year-round interest, but the blue flowers are a welcome seasonal extra.


On the other side of the drive, mounds of Veronica peduncularis ‘Georgia Blue’ pick up the blue note as a background for ‘Thalia’ and a smattering of other Narcissi.


Get a load of that blue sky. Perfect background for the early (isn’t everything?) blossoms of the pear trees.

The first of the Rhodies to bloom is always PMB. This year is no exception, but the foliage is so ratty looking that the flowers haven’t a chance to make up for it. Instead, I give you ‘Janet’, in all her beauty: from bud:

Rhododendron 'Janet

to budding,


to full blown, all happening at the same time on the same shrub. I hope your Friday held some wonderful surprises as well. Won’t you please tell me about them?


…at last

Michelle of Jockey Hill Nursery gave us a Magnolia grandiflora, which we planted before we even moved in. That means it has been in the ground  for eight years.

Magnolia grandiflora

Now lookee here! See it? Right up there near the top, on the left…a flower! The tree still has the look of gangly youth, but the first blossom is cause for celebration. Let’s zoom in for a better look:

Magnolia grandiflora blossom

It is slightly past its prime, just because I had given up on watching after so many promising buds had proven to be tightly furled leaves. It reminds me of losing sets of keys: it is only after one has expended the time and cash to replace them that they show up in some perfectly obvious spot. Back in 2009, Roy Lancaster told a funny story about waiting for a magnolia to bloom. I wrote about it here. He waited ten years, so I guess our little tree is something of a prodigy. I get all loopy imagining what future years will bring.

can she bake a cherry pie?

quick as a cat can wink its eye

pie cherry tree

This pie cherry tree looked like a goner when we first moved here. R can’t stand to see anything die, so he did a lot of pruning and staking and babying. Last year we had our first cherry pie. This year it has gifted us with a regular crop.

bowl of cherries

To fill a one quart freezer bag it takes four cups of fruit, one heaping cup of sugar (the cherries are very tart) and two tablespoons of minute tapioca mixed together before stirring in. To some, I added a few drops of almond extract. Others got the zest of a lemon. Many cooks swear by gadgets like cherry pitters and apple corers, but I find that my fingers are the handiest gadgets around.

pie filling ready for the freezer

Here they are, all zipped up and ready to be popped into the freezer. There is limited space in there, and I can’t imagine having more than four cherry pies in a year. The birds and the raccoons are happy that we left some for them. We came upon two raccoons feasting on cherries. They were so absorbed that they barely noticed us…either that or the word has gotten out that this is a no-kill zone, no matter how annoying the critters become. More about that next time, but now I would like to direct you to Wendy’s blog for more ways to enjoy the season’ bounty.

hot colors & newbies


My big score at the spring HPSO sale was Romneya coulteri. I didn’t expect it to bloom in its first year, so I nearly missed this single bloom. The brightness of the day washes out the shadows that give it a delicate look of crumpled silk and set it quite apart as it peeks through daisies in the same color combo. I hope there will be an overcast day for capturing its true beauty, but I know better than to depend upon it.


When I bought this Echinacea purpurea ‘Big Sky Sundown’ last fall it was fully opened to reveal bronzey petals. I loved it then, without even knowing that it would begin its performance with these tubular petals: hot pink on the outside, with the orange just beginning to show as they unfurl.

The colors show up a little better as we zoom out to see the whole plant.


Nearby, Helenium autumnale snuggles up to a couple of different Agastaches to extend the pink-magenta-purple/orange-bronze-red theme. It seems fitting for the color palette to heat up along with the weather.

first blooms


In its sixth year, this Hydrangea petiolaris decided to put forth a couple of blossoms


Not that I have been holding my breath, mind you. Its purpose in life was to camouflage a fairly unsightly woodshed. Having accomplished that, it is turning the corner nicely and being trained along the back side of the house.


Meanwhile, back in the woodland, the Arisaema triphyllum nearly escaped notice. It put in its first appearance during the wettest spring in recorded history, so visits to the outer reaches were few and far between. It was already past its prime by the time I spotted it hiding out under the shelter of its own leaves. I am hoping it will multiply. A stand of these would be much more impressive than my one lonely specimen. I do love those mottled stems…similar to those on Dracunculus vulgaris, which refuses to bloom for me, but is putting on quite a show in the danger garden. Maybe mine needs more sun, or maybe Loree feeds hers a constant diet of Vestal Virgins?



James, over at Lost in the Landscape, did a post recently bemoaning the difficulty of staging shots of big, bold, dramatic plants. Oh, man, can I identify. A work in progress is the planting along the fence between us and our oh-so-wonderful neighbors. They are tidy in the extreme, but the collection of outbuildings, woodpiles, etc. make for a poor background when taking pictures or just sitting on our deck gazing over the landscape. These three Eremurus are ‘Cleopatra’. They are new this year, and it looks like I have finally found the spot where these temperamental beauties can be happy.


I tried taking pictures from many different angles, but nothing quite does them justice. Others that have been moved around from year to year looking for a happy home will be moved to this bed in the fall. It seems to have it all: full sun, good drainage and no watering after the bloom cycle is completed. Now I just have to figure out how to create the background to set them off as they so deserve. Any suggestions?

foliage follow-up

Quite a few of us are bigger fans of foliage than of blossoms, so Pam’s brainstorm has us all aflutter. We can follow up Carol’s long-established Bloom Day with a post chronicling our standout foliage, then leave a comment on Pam’s entry so that like-minded bloggers can find us and share. This is my first time, and I am late (the target date is the 16th of each month). As with all things related to garden blogging, the rules are forgiving, so here goes:


Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’ knocked my socks off when I first saw it (in bloom). This one has been here for three years, the last two of which it formed long racemes of buds which were wiped out by bad weather. I don’t really mind, because the foliage looks like this all year. The ones at Cistus are 6′ tall, so it will only get better.


I keep adding heathers, but am not very good at keeping track of their names. This anonymous one snuggles up to Chamaecyparis ‘Barry’s Silver’.


In that same bed, the new foliage is showing up on the Rhus. I love the light, airy look and pale color at this stage.


Nothing seems to phase the Heucheras. They come through snows and deep freezes looking like this, and even seed around a bit. Think I’ll ever spot a sport to add to the growing horde?


The ‘Thunderhead’ pine is just a kid, but one of these days it will have started to sprawl and put forth the huge candles that attracted me to it in the first place.


Over in the vegetable patch, the rhubarb is beginning to push through the leafy mulch. See how crinkly and fresh the soon-to-be-huge leaves are at first.

Well, that was fun! Feel free to join in if you are a fellow foliage fancier. The more the merrier!

winter delights


There are a couple of things about this photo that I want to share with you. The first is that winter sun above the treetops, which needs no pointing out from this guide. The second thing, you will just have to take on faith. See the black specks in the treetop front and center? When I looked out this morning, they were moving. At first, I thought they were leaves, but they were floating from branch to branch, rather than falling to the ground. Quick…the binoc’s…they were hummingbirds…lots of hummingbirds! This is definitely the sort of thing that can make one’s day!

first bloom, slow sourwood


When the plant tag described Oxydendrum arboreum as slow-growing, they weren’t kidding. See that little spot of red in the distance, toward the studio? That’s it after nine years. To be fair, we moved it from our former garden in ’06, which would have set it back some, but still…


When it bloomed for the first time in late August, its other nickname, ‘lily of the valley tree’ made perfect sense.


The flowers are long lasting, so they are still in evidence as the leaves turn. It puts on a long show, with the foliage looking ever more aflame as the days go by. Hard rains cut the performance short this year. At the current rate, we will never see it reach its ultimate height of 30 feet. OK by me. I am content to watch the slo-mo progression of this very special tree.

firsts: sumac…you sucker


Looking pretty good here, where it has, at long last, taken on some fall color. Still, it totally fails to live up to my expectations, and stands as an example of what can happen when one fails to research with Latin names in hand. A sumac in our back yard was a fond childhood memory. It put on a spectacular show each fall, and the fuzzy, antlerish branches were endearing. I found this one at Recycled Gardens for $4 with no ID other than Rhus. As far as I can tell, it must be Rhus trilobata, or ‘Skunkbush’. In other words, it displays all of the drawbacks (suckering, smelly, no fuzz) and little of the charm I sought. Lesson learned? I hope so.