Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Reblooming Iris

too much of a good thing? (c) 2006 RKnow

The irises are in their glory and Marianne is prodding us to edit the garden. "Too much yellow!" she says, and I have to agree, I love the mustardy flowers but they do dominate at the expense of other tones. And they come and go so fast!

Now I am reading up on reblooming irises. They would help fill the late summer gap, as well as keeping us in the iris theme. Does anyone know an especially good source of reblooming and extended blooming irises? Here's the Reblooming Iris Society and its List of Reblooming Iris 01 and another list with detailed reblooming annotations from master purveyors Sutton's Iris Gardens.

Last night I got into the Schreiner's Iris Gardens catalog. Oh my. Drooling all over the keyboard. As the page says, "Hundreds of varieties of radiant irises for your flower garden." And a half-price sale to boot. I picked out a couple of hundred $$s worth, now to trim back to about 6. I am thinking of getting more very dark ones, to echo off the queen of the night tulips that did so well this year.

Here's Nicholls Gardens Plant Nursery specializing in reblooming irises, and local! Anyone want to go to Gainesville, VA? And ohmyohmy check out that (scroll down for it) butterbowl peony!

For more information about history and culture of reblooming irises, see this Royal Horticultural Society article.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

all those irises

Click to see a close-up of your favorite iris

average iris

Composite of 23 iris photos! Posted by Picasa

Poppies and Columbines

Oh the poppies are so hot and sexy, ruffling their red frills out those hard little pods. Then they open and go blowsy but the pods swell out for another round of interest. The big oriental poppies are hard to beat. Still, I look forward to the lavender ones that reseed themselves, too (shh don't tell but the annuals are likely somniferum, as are peony-flowered and other highly ornamental types). Did anyone plant Iceland poppies--wiry little perennials with a less-tamed purity? I scattered some California poppy seeds that I collected from a roadside in Seattle, but don't know if they'll perform.

These are Marianne's favorite flower. They are floral birds. Columbine means doves, while the Latin name--Aquilegia-alludes to flights of eagles. In New England and the Maritimes, they come in shades of white, blue and pink. The Rocky mountain native flower is red and yellow. Giant McKana is my favorite to grow from seed, with mixed colors often two to a flower. There are also double varieties that look like old fashioned ruffs. Columbines seed freely and I plan to get seedlings out of Marianne's bed this fall, with her permission, to set in the shade garden for next spring! Posted by Picasa

Painting the garden

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Flame azalea

Flame orange azalea is almost finished blooming in the shaded end of the garden. This is a garden azalea but its brilliant orange resembles the wild azalea on this region, which has big flowers in shades of orange and yellow.

The National Arboretum azalea collection is not to be missed right now. If you are lucky enough to get a spot you should sign up for an evening guided tour of the collection. There are more than 2,000 different varieties, many as yet unnamed, covering the hill and formal gardens in the azalea section. They bloom at different times over the course of mid-April to Mid-May. Biltmore's one azalea is about done now.

Rhododendrons are the same family. The ones that grow here are commonly magenta or shades of pink and white, althrough there are yellow varieties as well. Mountain laurel is another cousin.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Plant Sale Season is Upon Us (YAY!)

It's time for annual plant sales.. Two of my favorites are the National Arboretum sale:
Saturday, April 29th from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
(If you want to be an early bird you can shop Friday by joining the arboretum. It's a worthy cause.)
US National Arboretum
By the way, the azaleas will be at peak bloom this week. If you have the energy, that's a two-fer.

My other favorite is the All Hallows Guild: Flower Mart at the National Cathedral, May 5 and 6 this year. This is a day of festivities and--like the arboretum sale--includes a variety of vendors selling plants and plant-ephenalia.

As a public transit-using pedestrian, my challenge with both of these is bringing home the goodies. Anybody want to car-pool?

Some other garden shows coming up:
  • Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild 8th Annual Plant & Herb Sale will be held April 29 & 30 on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery, 1400 Quincy Street NE,Washington, DC. For info call (703) 356-1019.
  • Green Spring Gardens Park includes Spring Garden Day, May 20
  • GardenFair - A One-of-a Kind Plant Sale at Winterthur this September 15-18. Want to plan an expedition with me?

Luscious 'Lips

deep purple dream
(c) 2006 RKnow
sweet botanical tulips in clown colors
(c) 2006 RKnow
I am infatuated with tulips. The deep luminous colors, so intense with sun behind them they look like richest glass. Their graceful shapes. In a vase, they writhe and dance on their long stems, unfolding in spurts like coy dancers. They come in a range of heights and colors, and bloom early to late.

In our garden, the big early yellow tulips are almost gone, but the black-purple ones are holding strong and some gaudy red and yellow parrots are just beginning. Some multipetaled reds have exploded into mops of falling petals, while others are still primly shut.

In addition to long-legged beauties, goblets elevated on tall stalks, there are bunch-flowering tulips and botanical varieties some with mottled leaves and contrasting marks on their water-lily petals. The rockgarden tulips seemed vary fragile and are almost done. They are supposed to naturalize well. We'll see if the squirrels spare them.

Romantic reds
(c) 2006 RKnow

(c) 2006 RKnow

Peony-flowered Tulips

Luscious 'Lips II

I have fallen in love with tulips this year. Marianne planted peony flowered tulips in the shade garden and elsewhere. They have been blooming a sweet duet alongside the tree peony. These seem to last longer than other tulips, even though they look so delicate.

Peony flowered tulips in the shade garden
(c) 2006 RKnow

More Inspiration

Love the contrasting textures!
(c) 2006 RKnow

I spotted this on a walk. Maybe next year we'll plant some viridianas--I really like the greens. The contrast in textures highlights the dense saturated color and texture of the tulips.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Plants are Politics

I just went home to Maine for a long weekend. I got to reading a friend's FedCo catalog -- that once meant Federation of Coops. This distributor of seeds and plants grew out of the organic food coop movement in Maine and is part of a movement of maintaining independence through plant integrity, supporting local producers, and practicing organic and renewable agriculture. Plants are political. Fedco's catalogs are written for growers in Maine's zone 4-5 climate, and have a wealth of information on culture, propogation, and the history of the plants many of us take for granted. It's worth downloading them just for the great classic plates they've duplicated.

Fedco Seeds, Organic Growers Supply, Moose Tubers, Fedco Trees, & Fedco Bulbs catalog requests

Is there anything like this in the mid-Atlantic region?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Planted March 11

What a gorgeous day--and it promises to be warm all week as well. I stopped at Johnson's to add to the primroses I planted last week. Put some Japanese-style primrose near the bench, as well as some more in a plot and some tiger-striped violas with an intense smell. Also planted a peachy nemesia and some sort of edging daisy. Pansies and violas are blooming, there are more eranthis' up by the pump, and daffodils and hyacinth are about to bloom all over the garden.
While I was waiting for the bus, an elderly gentleman admired my plants and we started talking about how wonderful it is to get your hands into the ground. I told him R says I always come home with a blissful expression from digging in the soil. Primrose

We agreed that plants teach us to have generous hearts and to have faith and hope. A plant will fail to thrive and then after it gets moved someplace else will perk up and take off. And most plants are happiest when you take off chunks from time to time and spread the gifts around.

In fact, this garden is pretty badly in need of dividing and thinning, I think. I pulled a clump of tradescantia and left it in a container for anyone who wants it, but the iris and day lily needs thinning the most. That will probably need to wait till after blooming.


More planting planned tomorrow, everyone is coming by and pulling the covers off the flower beds to see what is peeking up.
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Inspiration afield

Dutch Iris and Crocus on Albermarle Street
Pink chionodoxa and speedwell

Star magnolia on Biltmore Street
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Sunday, March 05, 2006


I know, it is silly but I couldn't resist the primroses at Whole Foods market. I bought an assortment of three and tucked them in with some whispers of encouragement. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, perfect to bed them in, then rise into the 70s by next weekend, so I hope they'll give us a little early cheer before they go toes up.

Speaking of gambles, I was in Garden District today and pulled a handful of mystery bulbs that were lying around without ID. I couldn't recognize them, nor could the owner, so he told me to take what I wanted for a quarter per. I think maybe the enormous yellow ones are some kind of fritillary, while the ones with roots might be eremurus (I'm hoping--it's my husband's favorite.). Any one have any ideas? I figure I'll put them in and see what happens--if nothing, I'm out less than the price of a latte.
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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Spring's coming

It is spring at the National Botanical Garden where the orchid show, appropriately titled Simply Sublime is in bloom.

Passion Flower
There was a glorious passion flower in the conservatory as well. I hope the one we planted last year comes back. I'll plant another one if it doesn't. We're planning a trellis to show it off better.

Meanwhile, sheets of daffodils are popping up around town
while CROCUS rules on Biltmore Street.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Aconite (Winter) - Eranthis hyemalis

First flower up, in the bed facing the pump, is Winter Aconite - Eranthis hyemalis , There are lots of crocuses in bloom on Biltmore Street but not in the triangle yet.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Two kinds of hellebore, tree peony buds

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Monday, February 20, 2006


What will we do with the shade garden? It doesn't have much sun and it is dry and crowded with tree roots. Let alone that dang poison ivy that KL and probably others keep pulling out. We've put down some hostas to vary the liriope. And there is some ajuga that was planted to one side. The lilac that was suffering behind the bench has been moved, and there is a tree peony and spring bulbs including Angelique tulips. What should replace the lilacs, if anything? Suggestions include:

Bugbane (Cimicifuga--now known as Actae)
Variegated ground covers.
Other suggestions for dry shady spots

At the meeting, we voted for a camellia, which will offer shade and seasonal variety. However, they can be chancy to grow in this climate. It is a risk. But we saw one in bloom on Biltmore Road, late January.

JF prefers cimicifuga and suggests that water-retaining crystals would compensate for the dryness behind the tree.

Other Ground Covers
We heard from a foreign correspondent who suggested
“ I do know the spot you are working on - I have noticed it when visiting …in DC. People are doing similar things in open spaces in London. Under the tree you might consider: variegated vinca, variegated pachysandra or even variegated ivy. But I understand you are under snow just now! Best, RM”

More information on cold-hardy camelias from

camelliaThe Camellia Society of the Potomac Valley Annual Camellia Flower Show and Plant Sale is at the Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Ave., Wheaton, MD on
Saturday, March 11 (10:00 AM to 5:00 PM) and Sunday, March 12 (10:00 AM to 4:00 PM)

Dry Shade Garden Resources

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gardening questions: Pruning

One question that came up at the meeting was whether and when to prune. We particularly wondered if we should be pruning roses now, and when the best time was for lilacs.

After a little research here's what we learned.
Lilac bush

Pruning Lilacs

Lilacs should be pruned immediately after they bloom, because the buds (for next year's flowers) blooms on new wood.
We are marginal for lilacs in DC, and the heat makes them prone to mildew which is unsightly but not particularly harmful. In Maine, where they thrive, KL had a hedge that had gotten overcrowded and bloomed very little. A neighbor told her to root prune--ditch along the edge of the hedge with a cutting spade. She did and had a glorious display the next year. It was also a message to divide and donate.

one rose

Pruning Roses

Roses should be pruned at various times throughout the year according to the National arboretum:
"Lightly in autumn, removing canes long enough to be whipped by winter winds and those canes with signs of disease. Pruning to remove remaining dead, diseased, and damaged canes is done in early to mid-March just before growth starts. Species and climbing roses are pruned by removing entire canes all the way to the ground to encourage an open, vase-shaped habit. The rest of the roses get pruned to knee height at an outward facing bud. You can do some light pruning to shape the plants during the summer as needed."

More early blooms

daffodilsdancing daffodils
Early Snowdropssnowdrops waiting for snow

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Garden Meeting February 1

The Biltmore Triangle Gardeners met on February 1 to plot out the 2006 garden. That is...the plots are already there, but we wanted to plan our plants.

We decided that, while individual gardeners would continue to experiment and refine their plots, we would focus on three projects for the garden overall:
  1. Reseed the grass, which has gotten weedy and spotty. Between us, there was no lawn expertise so we hope that someone reading this has suggestions about how to deweed and reseed. (We will probably return to a discussion of pavers or other alternatives, especially between some of the plots that come close together, at some point in the future.)
  2. Landscape the (dry) shade garden behind the bench-We decided we would all work on it;
  3. Have flowering plants all seasons--especially mid to late summer, which can be hard to sustain. We will fill in with a mix of perenniels and annuals.
We did some budgeting for the upcoming year, including setting aside funds for metal markers to identify plants, grass seed and related materials, compost and mulch, a trellis for the passion flower that did so well last summer, and annuals for midsummer color.

The idea of a camelia for the shady back end, to replace a lilac that will be moved into the sun, carried the day. However, there is still some discussion under way about the use of other plants such as black cohosh and variegated ground covers. Since they all have very different habits and bloom or feature times, it is possible all will go there.

We also discussed reaching out to the community including building ties to local florists and landscapers, and perhaps having a garden party to celebrate blooms, bring garden fans together, and honor a neighborhood garden notable.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

On the wish list: Pulmonaria

The flowers are the earliest thing in the spring in Maine. The leaves last all year here and are so interesting. It grows in shady areas. It's an old-fashioned favorite with a lot of names and varieties.
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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Garden report January 21, 2006

January 21 and it is crazy warm, up in the mid 60s. Went to the garden to see what might be peeking up and to strategize about next year. A lot of trees are showing buds, especially the maples. Daffodil tips are pushing up out of the soil.

January shoots
(c) 2006 Beautiful Dreamers

I have a wish list of very early spring or late winter plants, many of which are on the street. For starters, hellebores (Christmas and Lenten "rose") with their mysterious and vaguely sinister greenish flowers. Several people on Biltmore have big clumps of them. I wonder if we can get some seedlings to go into the shady end of the garden under the tree, near the tree peony.

Biltmore Triangle -- shady end
(c) 2006 Beautiful Dreamers

Other gardens on the street are bright with berries: dwarf nandina, euonymus and another unknown berry, all giving winter interest. A camellia is in bloom--winter roses that will come in January and February if the shrubs get shelter. There are some varieties that are cold hardy this far north. Can we put one in the shade at the end of the garden, or is the mimosa too thirsty a tree for it to survive in its rain shade?

Early starters include pulmonaria. One gardener on the west side of the block has a goodish clump of this borage family flower with its silvery spots. It is an early bloomer that looks a little like Virginia blue bells, with a shade-friendly leaf that is interesting all year. Forget-me-nots that I sowed directly last year are covering ground, we'll see how they bloom come spring.

(c) 2006 Beautiful Dreamers

Some seedlings are starting to show up as well, and hopefuly they'll tolerate the cold they're likely to get before true spring. I see starts of foxglove (old witch's plant, we'll be wanting it for its digitalis if the drugs mess-up continues), columbine, love-in-a-mist. The bronze fennel is sprouting back where I cut it down in the fall, as is the wormwood. A pink in the rock garden by the pump has two flowerbuds ready to bloom.

On the wish list: Hellebore

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