No deer damage in this garden

No doubt there are many with the same deer problems that I’ve experienced, and probably much worse. Just a few years ago my philosophy was to let the deer have theirs, I still have plenty of garden even with them nibbling a bit. But that has changed.

P1011490When my wife starts talking about shotguns, I fear for my own safety, so it’s time for action. Last year I made a half-hearted effort to spray a deer repellent. The initial results were good, but I didn’t follow up, and after a couple months deer had eaten dozens of hostas to the ground. Over the Winter they ate a number of evergreens that hadn’t been touched previously.

P1011296This year will be different. I have a small pump sprayer, two large containers of different type deer repellents, and the wife has marked spraying dates on her calendar at the start of every month. Early May was the first spray, early June the second, and despite twenty inches of rain there’s been no damage. The third spray will be next week with the brand used in May so they don’t get accustomed to just one.

I’ve read several recent magazine articles about deer damage in gardens, and the authors seem to push ten foot fences (or worse, electric fences) and crazy looking motion detector sprinklers, and hardly mention spraying repellents. DSCN0038They say that they’re effective, but must be sprayed repeatedly and will be washed off with rain. I’m as lazy as anyone, but spraying once a month is not too much work. Put it on the calendar, and have the wife bother you until it’s done.

Now into early Summer, plants that had suffered injury from deer in the past have returned to good health, though some still lack full size leaves. Next year most will be fully recovered.

I’m nearly convinced, but I’ll continue to report my experience. I’m quite confident that the repellent sprays will not wash off within thirty days, despite a series of heavy rains.

I know that deer are still in the neighborhood, I see them scampering away at dawn as I leave for work. They nipped new shoots on a few hostas in April, before I started spraying. But since, nothing, no evidence of a problem. I still see fresh tracks in muddy areas in the garden, but not a trace of injury to the hostas, liriopes, and daylilies that they covet.

Talk of shotguns has ended.


Lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer

Okay, I’m finally willing to admit that Summer’s upon us. Nearly twenty inches of rain have fallen in northern Virginia over the past seven weeks, accompanied by clouds and cooler than average temperatures. But, the party’s over.

P1011706The garden is a lush jungle, ripe for disaster. So many plants have performed splendidly that there should be little doubt that a hail storm will tear apart the huge hostas and hydrangeas. A windstorm will topple the tall nandinas and the blooming stalks of yuccas. There will be beetles, and aphids, slugs, mites and caterpillars.

The scale of delight and disaster has tilted far out of balance for us this Spring, and the gardener knows better than to expect that order will not be restored. No rain is called for in the five day forecast, so I’m resigned that sweltering heat and humidity are here to stay.

Before we retreat beneath the shade, or (horrors!) inside to the cooled air, there are many gems to visit. We’ll move with haste lest a mighty storm flattens the garden in an instant.P1011795

The blooms of ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea are far superior to the poor rating I had given in past years. I may grow to like it. In fact, many hydrangeas are grand, and ‘Lady in Red’ probably no better nor worse than most. But, quite a sight today.P1011828

P1011804The Fuchsia’s are blooming, one tropical (left) purchased in late Winter as barely more than a rooted cutting, and a hardy variety (above) that survived this year’s zero degree low. The hardy one popped through the soil in early May (I had given up on it), but now is growing vigorously and flowering. The tropical has more colorful blooms. Both are fine plants.

A week ago two of the Lysimachias were blooming. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachina nummuleria aurea) lasts only a few days, but then the yellow blooms are hardly noticeable against the yellow button leaves anyway. I’ve found that Jenny works best with a bit of shade rather than full sun, and prefers more moisture than I provide, but it makes a sturdy bright yellow carpet with no care.P1011821

‘Firecracker’ is taller, with small yellow flowers against red leaves. It is vigorous, but not uncontrollable. In late May I keep busy pulling it out of an unfortunate hosta planted nearby, but the sturdy stalks pull out cleanly, so the chore is tolerable. I’ve planted it in two areas in the garden that are bone dry, and it seems quite happy.P1011826

Nearby, next to the patio by the swimming pond, is the gold leafed Agastache, probably ‘Golden Jubilee’. The spiky blossoms are striking with the yellow backdrop, and bees and butterfiles love it. I erred planting it a few feet too far from the stone patio, so I must step over small boulders and euphorbias to touch the fragrant leaves. P1011754Visitors are often surprised that leaves, and not only flowers, are scented.

Across the patio is Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) with two foot stalks. I planted this one earlier in the Spring after one that had been in the garden for years was neglected too long and covered by a large weeping Norway Spruce. Not the first plant I’ve lost to laziness, stupidity, or perhaps both.

The Japanese iris planted in the shallows of the ponds have nearly finished blooming except for a couple planted in deeper water. A handful of different varieties  bloom consecutively beginning early-May through mid-June. A complete accident, since I had no idea when they would bloom. My best gardening decisions can accurately be characterised as “dumb luck”. P1011797

With the iris past bloom, Oriental or Asiatic lilies (I’m not sure which) are flowering next to the swimming pond. I purchased an inexpensive mix so I don’t have a clue what the varieties are, but the random mix of color is quite nice.

P1011760A few feet away are several of a common Catmint (Nepeta) that have been blooming for awhile, but have escaped my close attention. Bumblebees are drawn to this one, which drew my attention today.P1011761

Also blooming for weeks without mention in this journal is the well mannered perennial geranium ‘Rozanne’. It will flower for months, though never covered in blooms. I prefer a geranium with a bit more body, such as the small, shrubby ‘Espresso’ with faded chocolate leaves, which is covered in flowers for a couple weeks, and then just hangs around with good foliage thereafter.

The small leaves of ‘Espresso’ will not be torn to tatters by the gales I’m expecting. The garden might never again be so delightful as we near the end of June, so I will take an appreciative stroll each day until the inevitable storm that wreaks havoc.

Will wonders never cease?

Most people enjoy their gardens from afar. Park the car, stroll down the front walk and notice the daylilies are blooming. How nice! Maybe even give the roses in the backyard a sniff.

If your home has a “landscape”, return on investment and curb appeal are most important. The bed edges must be sharply cut, the lawn neatly trimmed.     DSCN0093[1]

But if you have a garden, you’re paying closer attention. Gardeners are more like children, thrusting their noses into every blossom, noticing every oddity, every subtle joy the garden offers. And there are many wonders to ponder, not only flowers, but leaves, bark, and buds. P1010742

The emerging Spring growth of Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ (above) is amazing, seemingly an alien life form waiting to pounce. But only if you’re looking.

Each form of mahonia is quite remarkable, with distinctive flowers (in late Fall or late Winter, depending on cultivar, at left Winter Sun in November) followed by grape-like fruits. The leathery leaves are sharply spined, so care must be exercised in placing it away from passersby. Of course mine are planted where I brush them constantly, but are available for frequent inspection, so I will bravely suffer the occasional wound.P1011419

Each trip through the garden reveals new treasures if you’re willing to take notice. P1011747Appreciate the deeply veined, huge blue leaves of the old Siebold Elegans hosta, the subtle coloration of the leaves of the variegated native dogwood ‘Cherokee Sunset’ (above), or the wonderfully complex markings of the Peruvian lily (Alstromeria, at left).P1011689

My daily stroll through the garden includes a stop at the large swimming pond to feed the koi. The big ones swarm and splash the boulders at pond’s edge in anticipation, while babies, now more than two inches in length, circle excitedly, though they are still too small to consume the feed pellets. The first prolonged heat of the season has resulted in noticeable growth of the tropical elephant ears, bananas, and cannas. DSCN0080

The ground cover sedum Angelina tumbles over boulders that border the patio next to the pond, blooming on stalks inches above this low growing gem. I’ve had success with many sedums, but Angelina grows relatively quickly, even when given a hot, dry, rocky spot, and looks happy to be there. P1011680

Nearby, squeezed between boulders and planted in a mix of soil and gravel, are hens and chicks (Sempervivum). The drier, rockier the location, the better they seem to like it. In late Spring an odd looking stalk appears, then opens to small, unusual flowers. Hardly noticeable, but worth closer inspection.P1011709

I can hardly imagine a more ideal perennial than hosta for any area with shade a part of the day. The range of colors, sizes, and variegation patterns almost makes the blossoms superfluous. There’s no reason, short of running out of space, not to purchase every one you can afford. Even then, yank out some of those old hollies and plant a few more.P1011495

Yes, I know that deer snack on them. Spray one of the deer repellents once a month and the problem is solved. The repellents are safe, with natural ingredients that won’t harm your dog or kids, or even the deer. Don’t fall victim to fears that rain will wash it away. I’ve had serious deer problems in prior years, but have had barely a nibble this year despite overly plentiful rain.P1011535

My wife’s calendar is marked, so she reminds me every month when it’s time to spray. I use a small half gallon sprayer, and my one acre plus garden takes a half hour to hit all the susceptible plants. I’ve had over a hundred hosta varieties at times in the past, (though deer have made a handful disappear) but I’m confident that it’s safe adding more. If only I could afford it.

Today’s stroll through the garden hasn’t covered much ground. Too much time has been spent of few plants, but what rush is there? More wonders await down every path. We’ll get there soon enough.

Funky flowers

And maybe a few leaves too.

I’m not very funky. I’m not so sure what it is to be “funky”, but I’m not, I can assure you.

But I know funky when it comes to flowers. And so, late May through June must be the funky season, because the garden is full of flowers that are more than just colorful. Their shapes and markings are complex and beautiful. P1011747

P1011744Peruvian lily (Alstromeria), my new found favorite, had to be inspired by an art class exercise painting a surrealistic flower. Its markings can’t possibly be real, but there it is. Marginally hardy in my Virginia garden without special attention (an unrealistic expectation for me, I know my limitations), this one is coming inside for the Winter.DSC00128

DSC00139Much tougher, but only slightly less beautiful, is Iris. I’m far from a collector with only a handful of varieties (perhaps a few more than that), but they are irresistible, and planted in shallow water and boggy areas, are quite carefree. Siberian iris is followed by Yellowflag (Iris pseudacorus), then a handful of Japanese iris (Iris ensata), each as delightful as the other, so that there’s an iris of some sort blooming in my garden for almost two months.P1011412

The structure and coloration of each flower is magnificent. What purpose this beauty serves, I can’t tell you, but though their bloom is short lived, they are a worthy plant in any garden. P1011414

Exceptional beauty is not limited to flowers. What could be more delightful than the new leaves of Forest Pansy redbud? Small pink blossoms are followed by polished burgundy leaves.DSC00533

P1011472On the opposite side of the garden are two more redbuds, Hearts of Gold, and the variegated leaf Silver Cloud. No small tree can be more beautiful in bloom and leaf.

You might question my alliterative description of any flower as “funky”, but by any definition these choices are interesting and stunningly beautiful.

Ain’t no cure

…. for the Summertime blues.

I beg to differ. I have a Virginia garden full of plants that stand up to drought, heat and humidity, that withstand torrential rains and hurricane gusts.

And for the poor, heat-stricken gardener? Plop down on that mossy boulder beside the pond. Dangle your toes in the cool water as koi frolic about, anxious for their afternoon feeding.P1011693

P1011720If you’re as fortunate as I, launch your floating chaise lounge into the big swimming pond with a cool beverage at your side, half submerged. The koi are splashing about you, frogs sun on a warm stone, water bugs scurry to and fro, and on the far side by the waterfall a squirrel has stopped for a drink.P1011756

The Japanese iris are nearly past bloom, but the acorus and variegated cattail are filling the shallow bog filtration area. Elephant ears are just beginning to grow now that the heat of Summer has arrived, and abundant blossoms of perennials cascade over the pond’s edge. As near to paradise as I can hope for.

P1011765An abundance of rainfall has turned the garden into a lush jungle of hostas with huge leaves arching over the stone paths, prickly mahonias that have grown larger than the reference books expect, and tall nandinas tilting askew from the weight of last night’s rainstorm.

Too soon there will be days when the midday sun will test the garden’s resolve, and the gardeners’. But then, the tropical elephant ears, cannas, and bananas will spring to life, a monstrous new leaf unfurling each day. Tired perennials, and gardeners, will be shaded as the garden transforms to an island paradise.

P1011723On this day in mid June the garden is filled with blooms of hydrangeas, roses (though the Red Knockout is in a short resting period), and daylilies. The stewartia is covered in white, camellia-like flowers, and perennials are blooming everywhere.P1011668

Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ has proven to be a long blooming, carefree addition to the garden with nonstop small light blue flowers through early Fall. One of three planted a year ago didn’t survive the Winter, but the others look great.

Most of the hostas have rebounded nicely from serious problems with deer the past two years. Leaves are still a bit small, but the deer repellent spray is doing the trick. Next year they’ll be grand.P1011748

The hostas inaccessible to deer are thriving with the continuing rainfall, P1011751and seedlings of unknown origin are popping up in the oddest places, in gravel in the island between two waterfalls, and squeezing out from under a boulder at the edge of a stone patio. Though the seedlings are often rather plain, and a hinderance to traversing the garden paths, I can’t bring myself to transplant or root them out. They’ve endured enough struggle for the foothold they’ve gained.P1011523

Spiderwort (Tradescantia) has preservered despite a horrid location shaded under a large nandina which is under the large tree lilac with a large stepping rock that crosses a pond to one side, a boulder to the other. With nowhere to grow but sideways, and despite preferring sun and being sentenced to a life without, my poor spiderwort thrives without complaint. P1011700

P1011666For willingness to adjust to abuse and neglect the varieties of Lysimachia must earn a prize of some sort. They’ve been planted on the driest clay hillside in the garden, baking in the sun, in wet, and shade, and happily creeping beneath  its neighbors. Some members of this large family are less than wholesome, spreading themselves about with abandon, but mine are nicely behaved, though not well treated.

I fear I have tested your patience enough for the day. There are far too many bloomers in the garden today, so whether we discuss abused plants or blooming delights, the conversation could last well into the night.

I’ll end today’s journal with my wife’s personal favorite, Houttuynia. If plant torture was legal, she’d have it on the rack. I tell her that every plant has its place, and she does her best to send it elsewhere. P1011725

But its will is strong, with an aggressive habit that grows under, around, and over anything in its way. Particularly distressing is the smell when my wife stomps on it, pulls it, or any of the other nasty deeds she contrives to end Houttuynia’s reign over that corner of the garden. But what a lovely flower.

Blooming up a storm

A storm is brewing this evening, a severe thunderstorm warning. So what! How many days in a row is this?P1011683

Never have I seen the garden so lush in mid-June. Though most days are cloudy, temperatures have been moderate and rainfall plentiful.P1011734 The six ponds in the garden are full to the brim, and surrounded by delightful Japanese iris (left) and Oriental lilies (below). The tropicals, elephant ears and bananas, are slow to grow, but the heat and humidity that they crave must arrive all too soon.P1011737

Floating on my raft in the swimming pond last week I noticed several baby koi nibbling at strands of algae on rocks at the ponds edge, then more, and more. In a 1,400 square foot pond it’s difficult to count fish less than an inch long, but we’ve sighted a dozen or more. Already, a week later some are two inches or larger, and beginning to swim with the big guys.P1011715

Hydrangeas are nearing peak bloom. Though the remontant varieties, Endless Summer (above, although this might be Penny Mac), Penny Mac, Mini Penny, Blushing Bride, and Twist and Shout, will flower on new growth through the Summer, the first is the heaviest. P1011717

Beginning to bloom is Lady in Red, a lacecap with red stems and light pink flowers. Highly promoted, but only satisfactory, not an outstanding selection.P1011742

More than satisfying is Oakleaf hydrangea (above). There are a number of selections, and this could be one of the improved varieties, or not. All are similar in my view, and exceptional plants for sun, or as is the case with the one in this photo, planted at the edge of a wooded area.

P1011707I have followed Nandina domestica through the year in this journal, from masses of red berries in Fall, to freeze dried leaves in March, to purple and white blooming clematis snaking through lush foliage in May, and today small white flowers (above). How many had given up on theirs’ in early Spring?P1011696

To bring this day’s journal to a close, the spires of waxy white flowers of Yucca are in their full, though short lived, glory. This yellow-green variegated leaf yucca in bloom today is sited in a hot, sunny spot planted in a mix of gravel and soil at the entry to the driveway, a brutal location, but handled with ease by this tough plant. Other yuccas are found in the garden in rich soil, dry and nearly wet, sunny and shady with equal success.

Much more is in bloom today, but must wait for another day. Thunder is roaring and rain slapping against the windows bringing another June day to a soggy end.

Touring Oregon nurseries

I’m back home in Virginia after a week on business in Oregon touring nurseries to select plants for Meadows Farms’ nurseries for Fall and Spring. I managed a few photos to show a bit about the nurseries since I’m certain that most people have never seen a large growing operation.DSCN0051

The weather was great, highs in the upper sixties to seventy and low fifties overnight, and appreciated more with the warm, humid, stormy weather at home. Regretfully, clouds prevented taking the classic Oregon nursery catalog picture of rows of plants with snow capped Mt. Hood looming in the background.  DSCN0056

Low humidity on the west coast allows nurseries to grow plants that struggle on the muggy east coast, particularly colorful evergreens that stress and fade with prolonged heat and humidity.  DSCN0044

The photo above shows a variety of dwarf and weeping spruce, variegated-leaf shrub dogwoods, and red Japanese maples in the background, that were dug from their fields in early Spring and potted for Summer sale. DSCN0052

Some will be headed east next week, and a few will be headed to my garden, including the dwarf Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’) shown above. Though space is limited, there will always be room for interesting and unique additions, and in a week or so there will be several.DSCN0058

Plants grown in-ground generally can be dug only in late-Winter or early-Spring, or in the Fall after cool weather arrives, so the ‘Thunderhead’ black pine shown above will have to wait until next year.

One of the more popular Oregon plants in our garden centers are blue spruce. The photo below shows the range of color in spruce grown by one nursery in St. Paul. DSCN0060

Most are grafted to assure the characteristics of the parent tree, since most do not come true from seed. A small section of the blue tree is slipped into an incision made in the host, usually a green needled spruce. After the wound heals, and the blue is growing, the above ground portion of the green spruce is cut away, leaving the roots of the green and the top of the blue spruce. DSCN0059

If it appears that the rows of trees go on for miles, that’s because they do. A nearby nursery has fields with 100,000 Emerald Green arborvitae, all one size. There are plants of a single variety as far as the eye can see.

Today I’ve returned to my humble garden, scheming how to jam a few more treasures into the already crowded landscape. The violent storms of the past week have done little damage, just bent a flower stalk or two.

Japanese iris have continued to flower, more Stewartia buds have opened, hydrangeas, daylilies, yuccas, and many perennials have burst into bloom. June will continue to delight for weeks to come, so our journey through the garden will resume in a few days.