Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Labeling Plants

My iris pallida
One thing that I have never seemed to get right in my garden is the labeling of plants. I really hate seeing the tacky plant tags that come with a new plant, but I do usually put the tag in the ground so I remember what variety it is and where it is, for the next spring. That's usually as long as they last, because the plastic markers get brittle and break, blow away, or get raked up.  I have tried a variety of labels, the wooden stakes that you write on, but they fade and rot.  I have tried the metal stakes, but same thing, the labeling never lasts and the stakes eventually end up somewhere else in the garden.

I do keep track of the labels that came with my shrubs and trees (and some plants) by putting the labels on a ring that I hang over my gardening bench in the garage. That way  I can always go back and see what variety I have. It's surprising how often I have needed that information, either wanting to know the particular variety or its growing habits, etc. 

Wooden stakes

I always thought these metal markers were the creme de la creme of garden labels, but they aren't so great either. I bought a bunch of them at a yard sale years ago, but who wants a million of these metal markers all over the garden. Maybe in a large garden with not so many plants...

Metal stakes
So I am still thinking about a good way to label my plants. Some people keep track of their plants in a database on their computer (surprisingly, I haven't done that yet) and match it to a map. I have tried to draw a map of everything in my front garden, but it's always changing and I never seem to get the scale correct. I do sometimes write in my garden journal where I planted something ("to the right of the scarlet peony"). Others ideas I have heard of are using strips from aluminum blinds, canning lids (I guess you hang them on a stake or something), labeled rocks placed in front of a plant, and  plastic dinner knives seem to be a popular option. Me, I'm still thinking. Maybe no labels is best.

Monday, January 30, 2012

MLK Memorial

 A busy weekend, beginning with my book group meeting here on Friday night to discuss The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman (mixed reviews, I didn't really like it). After a lot of discussion, we picked our next two books, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, and Nightwoods by Charles Frazier. On Saturday night we went to see Iron Lady with the Bensons and the Rubards,  and what an awesome performance by Meryl Streep. She's amazing. It was a great movie, definitely worth seeing, as we all liked it. 

Sunday was cold and chilly, but clear so we decided to go into DC and to the National Gallery. On the way we decided to stop at the new Martin Luther King Memorial, which was dedicated last year. I'm so glad we stopped because we really liked it-- the figure of MLK is carved into a gigantic piece of granite, which is emerging from 2 other gigantic pieces of granite. The inspiration for the design was his quote, "out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope," so in seeing it, I better understood his emerging from the mountain (of granite). It's very powerful. Seventeen of his other quotations from speeches throughout his life are engraved on granite walls surrounding the statue.

The controversial quote that is going to be redone

The MLK Memorial is right on the Tidal Basin and faces the water. We walked around the Tidal Basin for awhile--it was so nice to be there in non-cherry blooming time, because there was nobody there!  I loved how the cherry trees look in the winter. You can really see how old they are and the shapes are amazing,  bending gracefully towards the water.

The FDR Memorial is nearby so we walked over there too, because it's one of my favorites. I was happy to see Eleanor!

We did eventually make it to the National Gallery, and here's proof, one of my favorite paintings, White Roses by Van Gogh. There was even a concert of 18th century French music being held in one of the garden courts, which we sat and listened to for about a half hour. We had a nice day in DC.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Orchid Blooms

One of my orchids has just started blooming. The only problem is the flower is facing downwards, so I had to lie on the floor to take a picture, looking up. So the plant is not that pretty unless you are lying on the floor! This orchid is probably five years old or so, and hasn't bloomed in a year, so it's about time it started paying me back for all the attention I give it. Another orchid is about ready to pop also, so there are more orchid pictures to come.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pot Ring Thingys

As I was scrounging around my garage the other day for something, I noticed these pot rings I have and thought I would share them because they solved a container problem for me.  I have a lot of pots in the summer and they always leave rings on the deck, or the front steps, even with saucers under them. So a few summers ago, I found these plastic rings at Home Depot and they are really great. They have little feet on them that lift the pot off the surface and let air get underneath so you don't get those moldy rings. They come in different sizes, so I get them a little smaller than the pot so you don't see them under the pot. They even hold my biggest, heaviest pots. I bought a few at a time and I think I have enough for all my pots now.

Here's the underneath view with the little legs. They really work!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paperwhites in Bloom

I planted my paperwhites and I can't believe how quickly they have bloomed. Here they are, below,  on January 11 when I planted them. As you can see I plant them in stones, and keep them watered.

Three days later on January 14--

And on January 17--

First blooms on January 19--

And in full bloom on January 20--

I wish you could smell them, because they are so fragrant they make the whole room smell nice. Some people don't like paperwhites because they do have such a strong fragrance, but I like it. They tend to get floppy, so I turn them every day to the light to keep them standing straight but I always have to tie them up, too.  So that's pretty amazing, from bulbs to blooms in 8 days. I plant them 5 at a time and I have 5 more so will plant those in a few weeks for some February blooms.  Just what we need in these dreary days of winter.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Little Bitty Snow

Well we didn't get a lot of snow, but enough for a pretty walk in the woods yesterday. It's going to be in the 50s today. Ahh, winter, where are you?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wintry Morning

Just kidding! I wish I this was what I was looking out my window at this morning (that is my cherry tree during one of our big snowstorms in 2010).  It is very cold today and we are supposed to get some wintry mix and some icy conditions tonight. You never know, though... Hopefully it will hold off until tonight, as I am working all day. During last year's snow storm in January, the roads were so bad that three of our staff members had to spend the night in the library. That was the night it took Walt six hours to get home from DC. We're all hoping for a big snow so we can see how the library system deals with closings this year, after last year's nightmare.

Here's what I see in mon jardin this morning.

Daisy foliage

Some kind of bulbs, probably tall snowdrops


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Words With Friends

Too busy playing WWF to blog today!  Can you tell I have nothing to say today? Playing this game is becoming my new full-time job...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lovely Hellebores

It's cold and windy Wednesday,  after a freakishly warm day yesterday. I went outside this morning, sure I would find some buds peeking through but all I could find were some hellebores (Helleboris orientalis) just starting to bloom. These plants are one of my favorites--they look good all year long, with their dark green foliage,  and start blooming in the winter, thus their common name, the Christmas Rose. They self seed, so the one plant I bought probably ten years ago at Merrifield Garden Center has now grown to 5 or 6 large clumps in various parts of my back garden. They prefer shade but will survive in some sun as I learned after we cut down our goldenrain tree two years ago, which had shaded them for many years.

 The flowers are sometimes hard to see, as they hang their heads and are often hidden by their large leaves.  In a few weeks, I will cut back a lot of the raggedy leaves, which will expose the buds and make the flowers stand up a little taller, and encourage new growth.

I like to cut a few stems in the winter and put them in tiny vases. I just read somewhere that the best way to show the blooms is to float them in water.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Walk in Runneymede

It's a rainy, cold day today, but yesterday I took a nice walk in Runnymede Park, a nature park about a five minute walk from our house. I have walked there before, but not for awhile and it was kind of nice in the morning, so quiet, not a soul in sight. A path follows the Sugarland Run stream and loops around the park for about 2.5 miles. I saw a notice that they have regular walks there, "Runnymede Rambles," where a guide talks about the wildlife and plants in the park and then leads a walk. Who knew they did that? I'm so glad I rediscovered this park for when I feel like walking in a natural area instead of in the town.

Near the entrance to the park there is a sign about the The Native Plant Project,  a small garden planted entirely with native plants. The idea is to highlight the value of locally native plants to the environment, homeowners, and the community, and it encourages residents to use native plants in their landscaping. I hadn't seen this before, but I thought it was a cool idea and I will be interested to see how it looks in the months to come. The sign said many of the plants had been rescued from former gardens and meadows that have now been developed (many of the plants were from the site where Target was built).  I also learned that the reason the park has such interesting plant life is because it was the site of dairy farms and cattle once grazed there. All that good manure must still be working! I'm sure where we live was once part of this park land, before it was developed for houses.

There is supposed to be lots of wildlife in the park, but all I saw were some ducks. I am sure this is where most of the deer in our neighborhood wander away from.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Garden Journal

I am sure it comes as no surprise, but I I have kept a garden journal since 1980, when I planted my first perennial garden at our house on Madison Street. Back then I just used a spiral notebook and kept track of what I planted in that first perennial garden and in a large vegetable garden we had at that first house.  I love going back and looking at what we planted--all the varieties of tomatos, eggplant, broccoli, lettuce and of course the flowers. We were so energetic back then!  In 1993 I guess I thought I was serious and bought a real garden journal on a visit to Monticello, and I have been using the same one ever since.

I write down my To Do lists every year...

I add pictures for inspiration...

And see all the bulbs I planted...

Keep track of information on orchids and plants I want to look for....

Write down some good climbing roses ( I planted New Dawn)...

Add pictures of gardens like this patchwork garden...

And maybe this is where we got the idea for edging our beds...

Sometime I add photographs and diagrams, and for the past few years I have been keeping track of my pots and what I put in them. I also mark in the margins what is blooming and the date. It's fun to look back and see when things bloomed from year to year. For example,  my tree peony bloomed on May 10 in 1993 (and had 11 blooms), on May 1 in 1994,  and  bloomed on May 5 in 1996. Now isn't that interesting? Well, to someone who gardens these are the little details that are interesting. I write all year long, about the weather and the snow and the skunks and the goldenrain tree bugs I had covering everything one year (eventually had to cut that tree down). When I pruned, divided, fertilized, staked, tore out. Which plants work, which do not. It's quite a book!