Monday, June 26, 2017

Welcome Ginny Genista

Every year, on the way to work, I drive past a house on Belmont near Caesar Chavez.

In the front yard, there is a beautiful small tree that I have always lusted after, but I never knew what it was. This year I had to swerve over to the parking lane to stop and take a picture. I wish I had run across the street for a better picture, but I was running late for work!

I've since discovered that it is Genista aetensis (Mount Etna Broom).

This time of year, it's a jaw dropper, basically a ball of canary yellow flowers. On closer inspection, the little yellow flowers are pea-like and smell of jasmine.

Out of flower, the tree is almost bare branches with an elegant weeping habit. There are actual leaves but they are very small and not noticeable. The bark is a lovely green. The tree can reach 12-15' tall and likes full sun and good drainage. And who doesn't really?!?

So, having lusted after this tree for awhile, I set out to find it and I did find it at Cistus a year or two ago, but I didn't buy it!

Not sure what I was thinking back then?!?

Perhaps I thought I had been buying too many trees and there was no way I needed another.

Finally this year, the Mardi Gras Gardener and I were back at Cistus and I finally picked one out and bought it. Alan was shocked I think, that after all this time of wanting it, I finally broke down.

I now had to figure out where it was going to go? I have gotten to the point where planing new plants gets harder and harder. Accommodating new shrubs or trees now involves digging up patches of grass.

I ended up moving a Lagerstroemia x 'Piilag-IV' (Moonlight Magic Crape Myrtle) I planted in 2016 in the center floating bed in the front of my house. It shares this bed with another small tree, an Azara microphylla I planted in 2014. The intent being that both these trees are fairly open and will still allow light in.

My little baby Genista (now named "Ginny") is going to take some time to grow, she was a tiny shrubby baby when bought, but my hope is to get her trained right to be a nice multi-trunk tree. She's now even putting on her own little flower show.

I can't wait to watch her grow! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Peonies 2017

To buy peonies, or not to buy peonies, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to just say no?!?  Can I even say no? 

I wasn't, I swear, going to buy any more peonies this year. 

I can debate WANT versus NEED in my head, until my head explodes, but when it comes to peonies, I clearly can't help myself, and why should I anyway?

But as far as addictions go, peonies are a pretty safe one. They don't lock you up for it at least.
Paeonia ostii 'Feng Dan Bai' (Phoenix White) from 2011
Paeonia 'Yachiyo Tsubaki 八千代椿' (Eternal Camellias Tree Peony) in bud from 2015
Paeonia 'Kokuryu Nishiki 黑竜錦' (Black Dragon Brocade Tree Peony) from 2015
Paeonia 'Black Panther 黑豹' (Black Panther Tree Peony) from 2011 with nearly 30 flowers
Much like "45", what comes out of my mouth, is clearly NOT what I will end up doing. So when I babble alternative facts about not getting any more peonies, just nod your head and say "Yeah, right", under your breath. You can't believe a word I say!

As is annually prescribed, Alan and Anita and I went to Adleman Peony Gardens opening weekend this year April 29th. It was interesting in that almost none of the plants were blooming, even in the display garden, so we had to pick plants in bud. Our cold, wet spring had all the plants on a delay. The bonus, however, was getting to see all the buds open at home and be able to enjoy the first year of flowers.

I said I wouldn't get any new babies. I came home with seven. Two or three might have been what a "normal" person would have come home with. Oops!

I've always wanted one of the really dark chocolate red peonies and finally came home with 'Buckeye Belle'.  Also coming home with me this year were more lactiflora type peonies: 'Belleville', 'Fairy Princess', 'Paula Fay', 'Pink Teacup', 'Salmon Dream', and 'Stellar Charm'. I tried to mix up the colors a bit.

In order to incorporate these new plants, and after some debate, an extension on an existing flower bed had to be made. The little flower bed with Cercis canadensis 'Merlot' was too small anyway, so the enlarged bed turned out great.

I was lucky enough to "persuade" (con) Alan of the Mardi Gras Gardener into grabbing a shovel and helping dig grass, while I bashed clumps of sod to get the dirt off. 

The new extension looks a much more appropriate size with the tree now as the focal point and it balances the yard out and gives that side of the garden more paths of grass. See how easily I can justify this in my brain?

Some of the existing plants that were cramscaped into the original bed got moved out into the new space. I did need to buy a few plants that bloom all summer to fill in the spaces after the peonies are no longer showy.

The before - The tiny bed with Cercis canadensis 'Merlot'
The "help" resting.
The after.

This post has pics of some new and some old peonies. There are still so many to open.

New for 2017 - 'Stellar Charm'
New for 2017 - 'Paula Fay'
New for 2017 - 'Salmon Dream' opening

'Rivida' from 2012
Noid peony - I call it 'Fried Eggs' from 2006
Itoh 'Lemon Dream' from 2016

Itoh 'First Arrival' from 2016
Paeonia 'Chojuraku 长寿乐' (Pleasure of Longevity Tree Peony) and Spider friend.

Happy peony-ing! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Olbrich Gardens

I went home to Madison, Wisconsin this past week. It was a family visit that turned into a funeral, but I don't want to dwell on the sad part of the visit too much.

My father and grandparents lived on the east side of Madison (Monona actually), very near Olbrich Gardens. It was a favorite place of my Grandfather Orlan. It's also a place my father, Jim, loved and a place I love too.

The Olbrich Gardens began in the 1950's and has increased in size and scope ever since to include the Bolz Conservatory and wide variety of gardens. There is even a beautiful Thai Pavilion.  

Thai Pavilion
We held my father's "Remembrance" party in the Atrium at the garden and it was perfect. Just a small gathering of friends to remember someone special.

Before the gathering started, I managed to step away and have a private moment for myself in the Bolz Conservatory.

I wandered into the Bolz Conservatory ($2 entrance fee), which is a hot house pyramid full of plants native to tropical and sub-tropical regions. It's a little tropical oasis in the snowy winter. The dome is packed with over 650 different plants. It's like walking around in the jungle.

Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by the fragrance of a beautiful Stanhopea in bloom.

I didn't have a lot of other time to wander the rest of the garden, so I'll have to save that for another time. 

Below is a little visual tour of the inside of the Bolz Conservatory.


Bolz Conservatory
Inside Bolz Conservatory

Etlingera elatior (Torch Ginger)
Chenille plant?

Overlooking the bird feeders

Gongora (Scaphephorus x tricolor)
Goldfish Pond
Kohleria 'Napolean V'

Juanulloa aurantiaca (Goldfinger Plant)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Father Loved Orchids

The morning of April 15th was very strange and I will never forget it.

The most anticipated plant sale to the season, Hortlandia, began that morning. I had been looking forward to it for weeks, even planning a vacation to New Orleans and a trip to Wisconsin to see family around it.

While I was getting dressed, only one arm through my shirt, I received a call from my step-mother. My father had taken a turn for the worse and she needed me to say goodbye to dad over speakerphone.

She wasn't sure how long dad would hang on and there was no way I could make it home in time. I was flying there in just a few days.

Hopefully he heard me say "I love you and you have my permission to go."

My heart wrenched.

The hospice nurse was on her way. Mom would call me as soon as she knew something more.

What do we do?!?

Alan and I were scheduled to pick up a friend to go to the sale.

There was nothing to do but wait for the call.

We got in the car, picked up my coworker and went to the Expo.

I had mixed emotions entering the great hall.

I grabbed a box and dived into the plant mayhem, hoping to take my mind of something happening 1,500 miles away. 

I picked up my first plant, a Cypripedium. I've always wanted one, but they are so expensive, I always tell myself no.

My phone rang. It was mom...

I handed my box to Alan.

Dad was gone...


I teared up and then tried to hold my shit together while Alan and Anita shielded me from the crowd. 

It's hard to plant shop through tears.

I went back to the table with the Cypripediums and picked up another.

My father loved orchids.

He would want me to have two.

Love you dad!

Thanks dad for teaching me how to veggie garden and for appreciating every single orchid I ever gave you as very special gift. No matter how small or how weird.


Dad, Me, Mom and Little Brother.


Friday, March 10, 2017

A Glimmer of Hope

Oh gawd, pleeeeeeese stop raining!!!

It's been raining for weeks or is it months? I can't remember and I can't take it any more! 

The one slightly less rainy-ish weekend I had the office cold (aka drippy sinus plague) that was spreading itself all over the staff. It's been weeks since and I don't think I'm fully recovered yet.

This weekend's looks promising. Today there is some strange yellow orb in the sky and patches of some sort of blue stuff.

Constant rain hasn't stopped me from plant shopping.

I had to buy some random summer bulbs that were on sale: Tigridia, Ixia, Asiatic and Oriental Lilies, Hyacinths, Eremurus, Zephranthes. Just to name a few. And I may have been seduced by mysterious "boxed" perennials at my local grocery store. I have low expectations.

I planted them all in the rain last weekend. I have no idea if I planted them in good spots, I just wanted them in the ground. Partly to get them out of my house and partly to give them a head start.

Based on photos of the yard from last year, I can see that some of the flowers are a little behind.

Some of the Trillium and Daffodils that were blooming last year on this date are a week or two behind.

Thankfully there are signs that Spring is upon us. I have felt bad for the crocus. They've had to keep their flowers closed due to the constant rain and some of them have just flopped over. Bashed by the rain into submission.

I'm glad to see these glimmers of hope.