Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snowfall on Confused Snowdrop

We've had some crazy December weather lately... Last week it was bizarrely warm (60s!), and this poor snowdrop decided it might as well get things over with and bloom already:

Confused snowdrop blooming in December
Then of course the weather immediately turned and it got dumped on by a heavy load of wet snow:

Snowdrop, now realizing it's not spring yet after all
Oh well.

Here is a shot of my front garden in the snow. The window near my desk looks out onto this area, so I spend a lot of time gazing at this space from my winter confines. Last year it was almost totally bare, so I worked hard on adding plants with winter interest here this year (something, anything - even a few stems sticking up at odd angles would be better than the endless whiteness).

Snowy garden
I'm particularly happy with the arching stems of the caryopteris in the top right of the picture, and was also pleasantly surprised at how well the calamintha (just below the caryopteris) held up to frost and snow. There are also sedums, tree peonies, roses, and a few small evergreens to look at now. Yes, it's not spring yet... but it's definitely less dull than it was before.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fall Color

I love fall color in the garden, and am always trying to incorporate more plants with this dimension. Here are a few that we enjoyed this fall:

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major 'Mount Airy' - fall color

The fothergilla is definitely my favorite! Mine is still young but already looks awesome in fall. (Can't wait for 6-8 feet packed with that color!) The leaves turn quite late, after most trees are already bare.

Bergenia (Pigsqueak)

Bergenia cordifolia 'Red Beauty' - fall color

I have three different cultivars of bergenia and they all had different colored foliage in fall. This one, 'Red Beauty', had a brilliant coral-pink-red color. 'Pink Dragonfly' turned a brilliant ruby, and 'Winterglow' was more of a burgundy. (They are all located in different parts of my yard, so some of the color differences may be due to sunlight or location rather than cultivar, I'm not sure.) I enjoy all of them - for their early spring flowers and glossy green summer foliage as well as the fall reds!

Geranium wlassovianum

Geranium wlassovianum - fall color

This unusual geranium blooms in late summer, then turns gorgeous colors in very early fall (September here). However, it appears to be quite frost tender and got zapped by the first light freeze. Being in the north, I'm not particularly fond of plants that shrivel that early. But I like this little guy enough to forgive its one fault.

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum (Bloody Cranesbill)

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum - fall color

The leaves of this geranium gradually turn dark red in fall, and hold long past frost. It even has one cute little flower still on it (in mid-November), as you can see in the picture!

Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot Geranium)

Geranium macrorrhizum - fall color

Quite a few of the geraniums have great fall color. Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot geranium) also retains its large fuzzy leaves long into the cold months, and turns a rainbow of soft colors in fall.

Rosa virginiana

Rosa virginiana - fall color

This native American species rose has awesome fall color. It started out early with crazy fireworks of bright yellow and orange, then faded to this intense plum red by November. Definitely a keeper!

Hydrangea quercifolia

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' - fall color

This dwarf oakleaf hydrangea has chartreuse foliage in summer, followed by burgundy in fall. The color is somewhat muted, but still a wonderful transformation to observe. My poor little guy got eaten back to the base last winter and I thought it was a goner - amazingly, it's grown over two feet this year and seems to have completely recovered. (It didn't bloom though - the buds presumably got destroyed.) I love the chunky yet fancy leaf shape.

Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grapeleaf)

Mahonia aquifolium - fall color

This little shrub is an evergreen, but the very glossy, dark green leaves of summer turn a dark burgundy-brown in the cold months. The leaves are prickly and shaped somewhat like a holly, but unlike holly it does not require acidic soil (which I do not have). It will also grow happily in even a fair amount of shade and is supposedly drought tolerant.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I love lilies of all kinds - they are perfect for adding height, color, and drama to the garden. Most of my favorite plants tend to be roundy-moundy spring bloomers, so lilies provide much needed contrast for me with their spiky shape and flamboyant summer flowers.

Asiatic lilies

Asiatic lilies are the most common (at least in my area) type of lily. They are quite unfussy and will return and spread from year to year if given a sunny spot and reasonably decent soil. They are the earliest lily to bloom - late June in my area, and are relatively short (usually 2-3 feet, depending on the cultivar). They common in a huge array of colors, including bright and dark oranges and reds.

Asiatic lily - dark red

LA hybrid lilies (Longiflorum-Asiatic hybrids)

LA hybrid lily 'Golden Tycoon'
LA hybrids are harder to find than Asiatic or Orientals, but they are well worth seeking out. The petals have incredible substance, so the flowers last for an amazingly long period (at least 4 weeks for me). The colors are very bright and intense, yet deep and inviting. They are tall but incredibly sturdy - I've never had one topple or even lean. Best of all, in my garden at least the rabbits do not seem to like them! They are supposedly fragrant, but I detect only a faint aroma at best on mine (maybe it varies with cultivar though). They bloom after the Asiatics but somewhat earlier than the Orientals. Like Asiatics, they prefer full sun.

Oriental lilies

Oriental lily 'Acapulco'
I would grow Oriental lilies for the fragrance alone, even if they were not stunningly beautiful. They are tall and bloom late - end of July into early August here. The flowers are large and exotic looking, and I love how the gigantic stamens wobble and set off the blooms. They generally have subtler, softer colors than Asiatics or LA hybrids, with lots of intricate spotting on the interior. I do have problems with them falling over in wind and rain - some support is probably advisable. They are also high on the rabbits' list of favorite tasty treats. Next year I plan to erect a small cage around mine so they don't get chomped. Orientals will grow and bloom in part shade, but do make sure they get at least some sun.

Oriental lily 'Time Out'

I have read that Oriental lilies prefer acidic soil, but my soil is quite alkaline and they return year after year for me with no problem. No lily will tolerate poor drainage, so I do amend my heavy soil with compost, of course.

Martagon lilies

Martagon lily 'Mrs. R. O. Backhouse'
Martagon lilies are rather unusual. They will grow in more shade than most lilies and prefer a heavier, moister soil. They also have distinctive dark green foliage which grows in a ruff about the stem. The individual flowers are not large, but are quite lovely. The whole plant has a somewhat sinister quality which I find compelling. The one pictured above was just planted this spring and so is still quite small. Martagon lilies grow very slowly, and often take several years to bloom. Eventually they can form very large clumps with multiple stalks per clump. There is a gentle, spicy/chocolatey fragrance.

Martagon lily growing among hostas at Olbrich Gardens
I am planting more lilies this fall so that there will be more to enjoy next summer!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Afternoon

My family went for a sunny fall stroll in the Arboretum this weekend. We saw some stunning fall color, as well as migrating geese, chipmunks, and a little striped snake. Here are some visual highlights:

View over prairie

Native plant garden

Shrub Garden

My daughter gathering leaves for a collage


White birch glowing at the forest edge

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Early Fall Flowers

Both my plants and me have been on garden strike this long, hot, dry summer... But now that cool, pleasant temps have returned, my plants are perking up and my garden itch has returned with a vengeance! Here's a sampling of some early fall delights in my garden:

Geranium wlassovianum

Geranium wlassovianum
 I love this little geranium! Unlike other hardy geraniums, it blooms at the end of summer into fall. The flowers are a gorgeous purple color, and the foliage is just so shapely. It's supposed to have great fall color too - this is its first year in my garden so I'm waiting to see it with my own eyes! For some reason this geranium is hard to track down. Here is another shot of it in its larger setting - I like the foliage next to the lime green spikes of Iris cristata behind:

Geranium wlassovianum with Iris cristata

Caryopteris (Bluebeard)

Caryopteris 'Arthur Simmonds'

My caryopteris, also in its first year, has grown amazingly and has lovely soft blue blooms. The bees love it, and so do I! This particular cultivar is supposed to be more cold hardy than others. I'm trying it out since my area is marginal for caryopteris.


I have several cultivars of sedums. My favorite is this one, which usually remains standing:

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' with Chamaecyparis pisifera, Heuchera 'Prince', and Nepeta 'Dropmore Hybrid'
 It is just beginning to color up. I also have a purple-leaved variety, 'Purple Emperor', which has lovely color but sprawls all over the place in an irritating way. Enjoy this picture because this guy will not be around for much longer...

Sedum 'Purple Emperor'

Kalimeris incisa (False Aster)

Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star'

I thought this little guy was a goner when it got devoured by rabbits in spring, but it bounced back admirably and has even been nice enough to bloom a bit this fall. It is an attractive and easy-going plant with very pale blue blooms - the color is a somewhat darker shade in reality. No matter which buttons I press on my camera, they appear washed out in the pictures. Not something to take your breath away, but a cheerful and comforting garden friend.

I need to add more fall bloomers to my garden palette - everything I really love blooms in May, unfortunately! Expanding the summer-fall lineup is something I'll work on in future years. I'm sure I'll find lots of ideas here, at Carol's May Dreams Gardens Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for September.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Annuals

Well, the relentless stretch of insane 100+ degree temperatures has finally broken, and I can finally venture out into the garden again without fear of melting my camera (or myself)! Wisconsin has not seen such hot temperatures since the 1800s. The plants, like the people, are looking tired and worn, but happy to have survived. And through it all, was I doomed to contemplate only parched grass and resting perennials from the windows of my air-conditioned refuge? I was not! Because I had the foresight to sprinkle the garden with a variety of tough summer blooming annuals. Here is what continued to bloom through the broil:

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) - I've always read that snaps prefer cool temperatures, but these 'Ribbon' series snapdragons that I grew from seed bloomed non-stop right through the heat. (I did water them, of course.) They looked so enticing, they ALMOST made me want to venture outside to pick a bouquet (almost).

Snapdragons 'Ribbon Mix'
Calendula (pot marigold) is an easy annual for summer color. If deadheaded, it blooms continuously from June to frost and beyond (October or November in my area). It's incredibly easy to grow from seed, directly sown right where you want it. This year I planted a cute little dwarf variety called 'Bon Bon'. Calendula are edible (and quite tasty), so I was concerned that the local bunnies wouldn't give them a chance, but for some reason this year they went after the zinnias and left the calendula alone. Go figure.

Calendula 'Bon Bon' with Snapdragon 'Ribbon Mix'
Petunias are of course a classic favorite for providing summer color through the hot months - here is 'Wave Pink' at the feet of Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) 'Mariesii':

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Mariesii' and pink Wave petunias
I grew this Convulvulus tricolor (Dwarf Morning Glory) from seed and it churned out pretty new blue-and-yellow blooms every day through the heat wave. The foliage looks pretty awful though - not sure if it needs a richer potting soil, more water, or less heat (probably all three).

Convulvulus tricolor (Dwarf Morning Glory)

This Martha Washington Geranium (Pelargonium) is an African plant that does not mind the heat. It sucked up water like a sponge, so I did have to water it every day. Annual geraniums need to be deadheaded and deadleafed (remove dead/yellow leaves) continually to keep them looking spiffy.

Martha Washington Geranium
I planted canna and calla lily bulbs, and so far only the callas are blooming. They are also getting ravaged by Japanese beetles (which we have here in droves) - my daughter and I will resume our daily round with a cup of soapy water now that the heat has waned. These bulbs create a tropical atmosphere which is certainly appropriate to the weather this summer!

Calla lilies (blooming), with canna and penstemon foliage

I'm quite happy with this quiet little diascia which I picked up on a whim - it has been blooming non-stop since June, and together with the lamb's ears provides a cooling touch to this hot spot near pavement.

Stachys byzantina and Diascia

Friday, June 22, 2012

Late June blooms

I planted three old garden roses bare-root this spring, and only one has a bloom on it this year. (I gather that's not unusual - they take a while to get going.) It's an alba rose called 'Madame Legras de St. Germain', and it's lovely!

Rosa alba 'Madame Legras de St. Germain'
It is fully double, pure white with a green "button" center, and has a very nice sweet and fruity perfume. Foliage so far looks great - alba roses do not typically suffer from disease issues. I hope it will be 6 feet tall and covered in blooms sometime soon! (hah)

My stokesia (Stokes' Aster) has also started blooming - huge saucer-shaped disks of purple-blue. It looks kind of like a goofy but charming alien.

Stokesia 'Bluestone'

Stokesia 'Bluestone' with Sedum 'Angelina', platycodon, and pink petunias

Also blooming now are these early lilies - I love all lilies, but the LA hybrids are my favorite. Supposedly LA hybrids are fragrant, but I can't detect much of a scent on the ones I have (at least, it's nothing compared to oriental lilies).

LA hybrid lily 'Golden Tycoon'

Asiatic lily NOID

Friday, June 15, 2012

June Blooms

A wave of flowers is beginning again after a bit of a lull following the peonies. Here's a sampling of what's blooming in mid-June this year:

Astilbe 'Visions in Red'
Astilbe - this one is 'Visions in Red'. It is the earliest of my three astilbes to bloom, and the most compact. I love the deep red color of the blooms!

Astrantia 'Roma'
 Also blooming in the shade are these astrantias (Masterwort), which are still quite small (planted bare root this spring). I love the delicate silvery-pink flowers, and the foliage is quite attractive as well. They are difficult to photograph - here's a close-up of the flowers:

Astrantia 'Roma'
Thalictrum ichangense 'Evening Star'

This diminutive thalictrum is delicate wonder in the shade. As you can see, it looks very unlike the more familiar tall thalictrums (which I also love) - this less common species from China is a tiny creature, with wonderful silver-veined leaves, red stems, and delicate starburst pink flowers. And, at least so far, the rabbits have not taken a single bite of it (something I can say about very few plants in my garden - my rabbits have very adventurous palates!). Behind it is Carex flaccosperma, which I think makes a good foliage companion.

Rose 'The Fairy'
My new little Fairy rose is blooming - the blooms are so cute! I picked this popular rose up on a whim at a garden center. It's a very ordinary plant, but no less valuable to gardeners who love easy, healthy, happy roses.

Tradescantia andersoniana 'Blue Stone'
The tradescantia (spiderwort) keeps pumping out blooms. The foliage is a bit "informal" (read: messy looking), but it blooms all summer and the overall effect is cheery. Sedum 'Angelina', spilling out over the rocks, is sending up its alien-wand flower spikes and will bloom soon.

Asiatic lily
This red Asiatic lily was a gift, so I unfortunately do not know its name. It has proved to be a trooper though, coming back strong this year despite repeated rabbit attacks. My LA hybrid lilies are just about to pop, and the Orientals have lots of buds. Hopefully it will be a good lily year!

Penstemon 'Riding Hood Blue'
These penstemons (Beardtongue) are another recent addition I made this June. I have totally failed to capture their wonderful airy blooms on camera properly - in real life they infuse this little corner with a silky blue-pink haze. I'm not sure how long-lived they will be (I don't normally go in for things with short life-spans...), but for now, they are proving satisfactory in this spot. As you can see, Geranium sanguineum var. striatum continues to bloom in the background. This will need shearing soon, after which it will grow new foliage and resume blooming from late summer into fall.

Visit Carol's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day to see what's blooming in gardens across the world on this day!

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