Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Where the Dragons Roam in June....

Ok, this weather is getting rather worrisome with all the rain and cool temperatures during the week and too brief warm respites on weekends ... normally I'm not one to whine (too much!) about rain, but this pattern we've settled into for the past several weeks has me a bit on edge. Long time readers will remember that just a year ago now we had a hitherto unprecedented flood in our basement (on June 12, precisely) and then several weeks of serious flooding in Des Moines, and me being the pathological worrywort I am, I hope we're not in store for any repeats of last year's events....

But on to more exciting things ... it's that time of year again to really and truly believe in Dragons! Well, Dragon Arums at least!

2009 is shaping up to be a banner year for what is arguably the weirdest flower we have at Casa IVG, our prize Dracunculus vulgaris that we have affectionately nicknamed "Mr. Stinky." Every June right about the time the Peonies are at, or just past their peak, he struts proudly to the floral foreground with a grand blast of his distinctive aroma of rotten flesh, brandishing his unmistakably phallic red hooded jet black bloom. Needless to say, he always attracts a lot of attention from innocent passersby, who probably don't know quite what to make of the demented gardeners who have such a decadent monstrosity growing in the middle of their shade garden right out there in plain sight!

Here are a few current views (as of June 7) that start out mundanely enough ... some remaining peonies (we cut most this year and brought them inside to save them from the rains), a pretty little stand of pink Camassia and a maidenhair fern... but if you look closely you can see the mysterious buds forming on that rather non-descript bushy plant near the center....

So let's go in a bit closer to investigate what's going on here ... can you see them? Those spiky, whip-tailed things with a hint of a red stripe? Yes, those are the blooms forming on the plants and this year are going to be a minimum of four blooms for the first time ever! When we we first planted this enormous bulb back in fall of 2005, we weren't even sure it would be reliably hardy to our garden, but by now I think we can confidently proclaim that it is hardy to Zone 5 bordering on 6! Since it first started blooming in 2007 it has only produced one flower per year, but the last couple of years it has been sending up offshoots from the original plant that have leafed out but haven't bloomed. Last year we counted 5 offshoots and when it emerged this spring, we were surprised to see eight! Each offshoot produces a stalk which will leaf out over the summer, but not all of them are likely to bloom for at least a year or so, but given its record so far, even more could be on the way for the next few years.

We have no idea if all four of these will bloom at the same time or on a staggered schedule, so you'll just have to follow along on our journey, but rest assured, there will be plenty of photos while they last! For all the drama and stench involved with blooming, Dragon Arum blooms are relatively short lived and go into a rather interesting period of decline on their way out! You'll see it all chronicled here over the next week or so ... we think these are less than a week from blooming at this point, so I just hope we get some sunnier days to show them off when they finally pop open their stench laden flowers for all the world to see....

Finally, just for fun, here's a newcomer to the garden this year for those curious plant IDers out there ... it's just begun blooming and I'll feature it sometime soon here, but for now, what do you erstwhile gardeners out there think this is? Some previously unseen hellebore? Maybe a Fritillaria? The flowers could resemble either of those guesses, but both would be wrong. If you grow this, you'll know immediately, but I have no idea how popular a plant this really is, but we're thrilled to have it join our garden this year, and may even plant more come fall! Weigh in with your guesses in the comments and I'll reveal its identitity soon!

Hanna sends gallons of puppy kisses to all her admirers out there who left such kind comments yesterday on her #500 post. She loves the attention and is always working on new ways to work the cute angle and will be back soon!

Mystery Flower UPDATE:
We have a spot on winner! Sylvana, The Obsessive Gardener, my compatriot from Wisconsin, was the first to correctly identify this flower as an allium, which we know as Nectaroscordum siculum (aka Allium siciculum) or 'Sicilian Honey Garlic.' It's a really pretty allium that blooms in early June, and though ours didn't quite reach its expected height of 36" this year, it's putting on a nice show, which I hope to feature more of in the next few days.... It's another of Van Bourgondien's "Best Buys from the Bulb Lady," so if you like it, it won't hurt your wallet too much to add some to your garden this fall! Just click on the link above for more information!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Hanna Holds Down the Fort

Hanna has this, the 500th post at Urban Oasis all to herself ... what's the occasion you might ask? Well, simply because she has so quickly become a truly indispensable member of our little pack here, due in no small part to her ability to bring a smile and laughter to even the seemingly darkest of days. And I've had a good run of those days the past week or so and Hanna has been right there for me the whole time holding down the fort, so to speak.

Most of last week it was cool, rainy, rainy and very dreary, and adding to which, I came down with another intestinal bug that kept me sidelined most of the week (now fortunately departed!) and feeling downright lousy. Along with my generally "down and bleak" mood, I just wasn't much fun to be around, thus my absence here around these parts....

But exciting things are happening in the garden, and starting tomorrow, I'm vowing to get on top of them and get cracking around here again! Even though the forecast is for another cool and cloudy week, at least the near daily rains we had last week are not currently in the picture, so there will be lots to catch up on ... and we'll maybe even be seeing the appearance of Mr. Stinky in all his glory within the next week, so stay tuned....

So let's focus on these photos of Warrior Princess Hanna on guard out on the front porch on Sunday morning when we had a brief period of sun before the storm clouds moved in. I really like this shot of her in shadow, surveying the situation just outside the porch in the Woodland Garden.

There's something very interesting going on out there ... is it a bunny? A squinny? Only Hanna knows, but no matter what, she's on the case!

Let's take a closer look ... If I could only just jump through this screen, I'm sure I could get to the bottom of this!

You wanted something? I'm kinda busy here, but I'm happy to help out if you need one of my puppy services! That's our little Princess ... always ready to spring into a new situation at a moment's notice....

Oh, and one last thing I should note about Hanna's Sunday afternoon ... she went with us to the grocery store and garden center, and on the way back we stopped at Sonic for a little snack (e.g. late lunch) and I ordered a dish of vanilla ice cream, which I of course had to share with Hanna. As far as we know, this was her first taste of this delicious treat and she absolutely loved it! Every last drop. This was her little reward for being such a good trooper on a humid afternoon, and though it's not something she'll get very often (we hardly ever have ice cream around the house), we do plan on getting her some Frosty Paws cups the next time we go to the store since they are a more dog friendly concoction (though she had no adverse reactions to the dairy in the soft serve). But given this first little taste of ice cream, she was clearly in doggie heaven and wanting more! Do we have a typical kid or what?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Purple Prose and a Pooped Puppy

Continuing with the theme I started with yesterday's post, let's take a look at the blues fading into the realm of purple....

This beauty is Aquilegia alpina, or the 'Alpine Blue' Columbine, perhaps the most successful Columbine we've been able to grow over the years ... after failing miserably with some of the fancier 'Barlow' varieties in the past, we discovered this simpler, more natural variety several years ago and planted several, which continue to thrive at the edge of the Woodland Garden. Last year we collected a lot of seed from these but have neglected to get it in the ground, so sometime this year, we plan on spreading it freely around the area in the hope of encouraging more of them to colonize even further....

This is one of the many globe alliums we have around various areas of the garden, and this particular one is at the edge of the Woodland Garden in amongst the dearly departed Daffodils and near one of our three holly bushes. My gardening friend Marnie over at Lilacs and Roses just recently had a fantastic post up about her Alliums blooming alongside her white Irises, a most attractive combination, so check it out!

Not only are they lovely and unexpected surprises (shape wise) who emerge in late Spring, they are also quite a beneficial plant to have in your garden.
All of the Alliums, including even the humble culinary chives (who also have lovely blooms) gradually leach sulfur into the soil over time, which is a great thing, especially if you have plants nearby that are susceptible to the dreaded powdery mildew (such as Monarda or Zinnias) because sulfur acts as a natural fungicide and will help protect your plants from infection. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors (I still lust after the quite expensive 'Gladiator' Giant Globe) to fit almost any sunny garden position ... and last fall we planted a bunch of Nectaroscordum aka: Sicilian Honey Garlic, which we just discovered this weekend are now on the verge of blooming very soon. You'll be seeing them here when they decide to strut their stuff....

Thanks in great part to the cool and rainy weather of late, the Pansies we planted earlier this spring are still going strong out front, so I thought I'd include a couple of shots of some of the more striking specimens. Just feast on the depth of colors exhibited by this particular bloom ... it's got the entire range of colors I love in flowers, from the fiery yellows and oranges to the darkest of purples approaching black. I don't recall what this particular variety is named, but I'm sure glad we picked it out (actually I think it was Fernymoss' pick)! For some reason, this particular shot makes me think of a dramatically colored butterfly, perhaps a black swallowtail?

This was definitely my pick, with the real fire going on in the flower and I just love this one ... One thing I've always appreciated in Pansies and Violas are the incredible ranges of colors one can find in a single bloom, and if for no other reason, that makes them worthy annuals to plant in the Spring garden. Of course they tend to disappear when the hotter months arrive, but until then, they sure provide brilliant splashes of color to the emerging perennial border!

Shortly after I started this post, I thought it sounded awful quiet downstairs, so I went down to see what Fernymoss and Hanna were up to (though I already knew), and they were both fast asleep in their respective lounging spots. Lately, Hanna has been spending more time on Pepa's old bed that we have behind the recliners against the wall ... though she shied away from this cushy bed for a long time, she has finally seemed to consider it one of her spaces (I suspect she was given permission from a higher Doggie Power), so I'm glad to see her enjoy it, along with the blanket we gave her to nest in there.

She had quite the day on Sunday, from supervising the weeding and planting we were doing, to doing porch sentry duty (scouting out squinnies, rabbits and neighborhood kitties) and going on her late afternoon walkie with Fernymoss. She clearly had a good day and when I was watching some HGTV earlier, she had a couple of quite dramatic dreams behind me as she was curled up on this comfy bed. We think she's happy here in her new home ... what's not to love? She gets constant attention, has lots of cushy lounging spots and gets to supervise the garden and shake the weeds to death! And pretty soon, if she has her way, she's going to teach those nasty bunnies a lesson for nibbling in our garden ... she's clearly a natural born rodent hunter ... we just hope she can scare them away without having to make an actual kill, which she appears ready to do if given the chance. But if it comes to that, I guess we'll have to endure the bunny screams (which I'd rather avoid, having heard Pepa produce that from them in the past).

Finally, some exciting news I hope to chronicle soon via photos ... we were looking at the Dragon Arum today and discovered that among four of the eight new offshoots, there are four buds coming on! And on the original stalk this year's bud has yet to appear ... so in all probabability we're going to have at least five blooms this year from Mr. Stinky! There may be more, but we're really excited at the prospect of this, our most bizarre plant, producing multiple blooms for the first time this year. Not bad for a bulb we planted in fall 2005, eh? Obviously this is not a plant for everyone, but we're proud to be the only people we know who have such a bizarre bloom arriving every June. Not bad for an original investment of about $8.00 for the bulb, which is clearly very happy where we put it in the Woodland Garden, not far from the Peonies who help to temper its floriferous stench!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

When the Good Blues Come Around

We have always sought out the many shades of blue flowers for our garden, and some might even think we border a bit on the obsessive about it (though I am equally well known about my obsession with fiery colors). The garden is currently morphing into its blue phase before ceding to the fire of summer, as demonstrated by today's shots, which are only just a sampling of what's to come....

First off, one of our favorites (and we actually "inherited" this particular plant with the house), Salvia nemorosa, commonly known as 'Meadow Sage.' This particular, quite popular variety, is called "May Night," no doubt due to its prompt arrival on the bloom stage in mid to late May. Like any of the Salvias (and there are multitudes of them!), this plant is a bee magnet and our resident bumblebee population is never far when it's in bloom. Deadheading Salvia nemorosa will reward you for your work, and you can often maintain bloom time throughout the summer if you're diligent about it (I'm not, alas). If you look to the right in this shot you can see that the Primroses that were so spectacular a couple of weeks ago have gone into a resting phase. I'll keep watering them and hope for more blooms, but even if not, as long as they're concentrating on bringing more to the party next year, I'm just fine with that too! That these little troopers have multiplied from an original 5 puny plants into over 20 in 4 short years has been reward enough for me! And you know, I do love me some Primroses!

This is one of our last spring bulbs to bloom, Camassia quamash, commonly known as Indian Hyacinth, of which we have become ardent fans since we first planted it back in 2005. At first, we made the common mistake of planting these bulbs here and there, for that "natural" look ... wrong move! They deserve to be planted in small masses (say, 6-7 bulbs) so they can really show off their presence when they bloom. And since they look so much like some kind of grass before they bloom, they just naturally look better in groupings ... and they do like to naturalize gradually, so do give them some space to expand. You'll be seeing more of this plant in future posts as the ones we got planted last fall start springing into bloom ... we usually have these through at least mid-June, so at this point they are just getting started.

This luscious bloomer is Hyacinthoides hispanica, aka, 'Spanish Bluebells,' a most reliable late spring bulb bloomer that has been naturalizing quite prolifically for us since we first planted them in 2005. As bulbs go, they're fairly aggressive (much like Crocus), which to my mind is a good thing! I suppose that should they ever become truly invasive, we could always just dig up the bulbs and give them away, but as far as I'm concerned, that's going to take quite a long time ... I think of these 'Bluebells' and the Camassia as the grand finale of the spring bulb bloom season, and when they have finished their show and moved on, Summer has truly begun ... and the Dragon Arum will be stenching its way on to the stage any week now. We did notice today that the first of this year's peonies have opened, and amazingly enough, they are the newest ones we planted just last Spring! The rest won't be far behind, and we'll soon be enjoying that blissful fragrance in the house once again (along with the stray ants)! I can hardly wait....

"Aerodynamic Lounging"

Just a couple of shots of the (apparently) ever popular Princess Hanna, here enjoying the evening air wafting through the Cabana Room on 22 May, 2009. Any guesses as to what she was thinking at this moment? (My guess is that she was gazing at whatever I was eating at the time while we had dinner on the porch!)

Fernymoss took this shot last night and is quite fond of it, despite its obvious flaws ... different lounging, here on the couch (in her favorite spot) and getting late ... Lil Miss Hanna has a bad attack of the snoozies!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In Which I Become an Economic Casualty

First off, I'd like to apologize for this unplanned hiatus in my posting the last week or so, and to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to those who have emailed me recently inquiring if things were ok here at Casa IVG. These expressions of concern have really meant a lot to me and lifted my spirits in the past few days....

I'll be blunt and get this over with: I haven't been posting because a week ago this past Wednesday, I lost my job, due to deep staffing cuts brought about by the financial woes of the company I worked for for almost 10 years. So far I'd escaped all the previous cuts, but not this time. Needless to say, I've been pretty laid low emotionally and spiritually by this unwelcome change in the course of my life. I'm still getting my head around the whole scenario before me (unemployment, job search and all), so frankly, for the past week, I've just not been able to put this all into words and mostly avoided the internet and especially the blog. Though technically, I'm on vacation now (I found this out 2 days before I was to begin a long-delayed week of vacation) and will be for the next several weeks (I had that much time built up but never taken ... due to work), then I'll have to rely on Unemployment until I can find other suitable work.

So there you have it, short and not so sweet. But life will go on, assuredly, just a little more unsure and bumpier than usual, at least for a while....

The garden, however, is forever, and continues its march into Summer, which you'll soon be seeing again on these humble pages ... that much is certain. We've been making some good progress in the past week (though this week was pretty much a rainy and cool washout) ... we have most of the veggies already planted and more will go into the ground this weekend, so there's plenty to talk about in the coming weeks. We've got a bit of a backlog built up of the flowers currently blooming so I've got material to keep me busy here ... so just be patient!

The first project I tackled after being "let go" (yeah, I was really chomping at that leash, yearning to be 'liberated') was cleaning up our overwhelmed and messy porch so we could re-open the summer "Cabana Room" we like to use as our lounge during the summer months. There was so much Halloween and Christmas stuff still stored out there that it took me an entire day to organize, clean, sweep and vacuum to get the space into shape for habitation once again. At this point, we're almost there ... we still need to move a couple of shelves and hang some appropriate summer lighting, and then we'll be there. That, as you can see, hasn't stopped Hanna from enjoying her whole new room to exploit ... we have a table (where we often eat on summer evenings), a few chairs and a bench that we need to get in perfect position, but Princess Hanna has already claimed a couple of chairs to herself, just like Pepa used to do....

Like Pepa, Hanna clearly is entranced by having a prime vantage point on our little corner of the neighborhood, and this week, when given the chance, she's spent a good portion of the day out there on her "throne" observing the goings on in her little corner of the universe. This was hard work, well spent on my part, to get this room back into habitable shape for the summer months, and you'll no doubt be seeing more views from here....

When in the living room, Hanna loves to keep an eye on what's going on in the Woodland Garden on the North side of the house ... though she often perches "vulture style" on the top of the couch, we happened to catch her all stretched out and peering out the window. Just another one of the many cute poses we see her strike on a daily basis, but we don't always have the camera handy!

I was just remarking tonight, as we both enjoyed watching It Happened One Night again (thanks, TCM!), that even though it's only been slightly over 4 months since Hanna came to live with us, it seems that she's always been here ... all those little doggie things we become accustomed to seeing and expecting are so clearly in place. She's home. Hanna will be my attentive fan while I'm cooking, Hanna will choose her lounging spot while we watch a movie, Hanna will tell us when she needs to go out, when she wants to play, when it's "walkie" time ... the list goes on. And all you dog lovers and owners know exactly what I mean by that....

And that's a great comfortable stability dogs give us, even in the most unstable of times. I know I'm going to need it, and Hanna seems ready to provide it in spades, as best she can. Her arrival in our lives happened at just the right time, and for once synchronicity has worked in our favor. Thanks again, Pepa.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crazy Hanna Explained

After this past weekend, with its clouds, threats of rain and downright chilly (for spring!) temperatures, the work week arrived right on cue with a gloriously sunny, warm and breezy day! Just my luck ... but aside from work, my preoccupation today was getting the new refrigerator delivered and installed so we could save most of the food we had in the freezer on ice over the weekend. I managed to salvage the majority of things, but some stuff totally thawed and got soggy, so I had to pitch it ... still, it could have been much worse!

Last night we cleared out the kitchen and set about giving it a good cleaning and mopping ... you can't believe the dirt that accumulates behind a refrigerator over six years! It was nasty, so out came Mr. Clean and the mop (and several buckets of very hot water), and after a few moppings I had the kitchen looking pretty good ... it needed it anyway after all the muddy paws over the past few weeks, so at least the refrigerator came into a clean home for a good start.

And arrive it did, late this afternoon when the Sears guys rolled up outside ... they were very efficient and quick about it and were done in perhaps 25 minutes or less. They marched in, measured everything, carried in the new fridge and set it up, then hauled "old unreliable" away in short order ... good bye Harvest Gold, hello modern black! We couldn't be happier with the new one ... even though it's a bit smaller, it seems to have so much more space, and is sooo quiet in comparison with the old one. With its Energy Star rating, it's also going to save on the electric bills (something the old one was awful about ... it was a pure power hog), and we even get a $50 rebate back from the utility company for buying a more efficient model. Add to that the special they had at the store, we also get a $75 rebate that covers the delivery and haul away, so not a bad deal in all, considering we'll get $125 back in rebates ... have to admit that made the whole experience a lot more palatable....

Ok, I know you're really here for the crazy puppy pictures, so here goes, along with an explanation of what probably appeared to be naughty behavior in that shot from last night. This is a game we play with Hanna in the mornings on weekends ... one or both of us will put a hand under the comforter and wiggle it around like some kind of critter, and it drives her wild! She darts from one side of the bed to the other trying to catch it and though I think she really understands that it's one of us (she will nip but never really bite), she has a ball playing this game....

Aha! I've got it for sure this time, I just know!

I'm gonna get you, no matter what it takes ... so there!

I'm done now. It's time to go to bed, ok?

I took all of these photos in the space of probably 10 minutes, from start to finish ... that's how easily Hanna's "switches" work: she's up for play as long as we are, but when it's time to settle down for the night, she takes the cue without complaint and promptly gets with the program. We both swear that she has been the easiest dog either of us has ever had to train ... it seems that just a few repetitions and demonstrations of what we want her to do, and she's got it down! She's a really sharp little gal, it's easy to see, and though that will sometimes mean she's a bit willful (just a terrier!), it's a small compromise to make for having such a bright little pup sharing our lives. Though when I first had Pepa, that was a constant source of frustration and discouragement, but once I got her through that rebellious stage, she grew into one of the best dogs I've ever known. We haven't had any of that with Hanna (so far) and training her has been joyful and fun, just like it should be! You can't imagine how gratifying it's been to watch her learn new things and understand her little quirks more and more, one of which we just discovered last night: she barks at wiggling brooms! So the broom can join Mr. Rake Monster and the roaring Vacuum as her least favorite implements around the house....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Crazy Hanna!

Just a moment of silliness and egged on craziness for Hanna ... she's really not being destructive here, just playful! Explanations later ... we got her all wound up for a photo op for Coneflower!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pansies and Primroses in Primetime

After all the rain this week, it looked like this weekend was going to be our only chance to get out and do some work in the gardens, and once again, reality had to butt its in head again, so we didn't get anything accomplished today. Granted, it was a bit on the chilly side (low 50's for highs), but it was sunny and at least helped out to reduce the mud in the beds so we can work a bit tomorrow outside, along with our new little weeding helper ... so wish us luck!

No, the big. expensive distraction this Saturday involved a refrigerator that just decided to give up the ghost late last night! Right around midnight (just after our weekly James Bond fix on TCM), I went to get a few ice cubes out of the freezer and discovered to my horror that they were melting ... yep, our aged (mmm ... Harvest Gold!) refrigerator that we inherited from my sister several years ago had finally definitely gone kaput suddenly. Though the timing was anything but convenient, we really couldn't complain because it had served my sister quite well for at least 30 years before we got it, so we really should have expected it sooner ... but still. Luckily we have our old fridge (a really ancient one we bought used when we still rented) downstairs for storing beer and soda and such, so we got most of the lower compartment items down there for safekeeping and stuck a big bag of ice in the freezer (which has been keeping things frozen so far) to hold us over until Sunday when we can defrost downstairs and get the frozen meat and such down there until we get the new one.

So, this afternoon it was off to Sears (who happily was having a big appliance sale, just in time) to see what we could get to replace it without breaking the family bank. We ended up deciding on a slightly smaller (18.2 cu ft) black model that should fit better in the space we have for it (the old one really cramped our already tiny kitchen) even though Fernymoss is going to have to rip some of the overhead cupboard out to fit that extra inch in height. Anyway, we plunked down our money and arranged for it to be delivered on Monday, and best of all, they will haul the old one away to the great fridge graveyard in the sky (or wherever it is). Actually, this was a bit of a blessing in disguise ... the old one was impossible to keep clean due to its age, and the door didn't quite close right, so we know it was using a lot of power. The new one is an Energy Star rated one and should eventually pay for itself in saved utility bills ... and it has no drip glass shelves, so it should be much easier to keep clean as well.

So, despite my worries about the expense, it turned out pretty well after all and soon we'll have a nice, clean and quiet refrigerator to spruce up the kitchen a bit ... it just seems that the past couple of years we've been replacing big things around the house ... first the furnace (that was big!), then the washer and dryer in January and now the refrigerator. Just in case, today I glanced at stove prices while we were at Sears, figuring that will be the next thing to go or (goddess forbid!) the air conditioning. We know it's all part of being a homeowner (we've already had to replace the water heater too), but when you're working on a limited budget to begin with, it does get a little scary when these things happen! At least, the current crisis is solved and by Monday night, we'll be admiring and enjoying our new fridge ... one more thing for Hanna to want to investigate thoroughly ... she already knows full well what goes in there and when the door is opened she's always ready to check out what we've got inside!

Now on to the main attraction, more pretty blooms from out front ... with all the rain this week we haven't been getting any pictures, so these are from May 8, and though these are blooming even more, these should give you a good idea of some of the color going on currently as the perennials continue to leap out of the ground with all this rain....

As I've mentioned in previous posts, these Primrose polyanthus 'Elite Hybrids' have been thriving the past few years and currently going great guns, and with any luck, they'll likely last through mid June at least before they take a rest and maybe bloom again in fall. They don't do that often, but have been known to put on a quick second blush of bloom when it starts cooling down in the early fall before going dormant for the winter. I actually really like this shade of pink (horrors!) and their detailed yellow centers and think they're quite lovely. But it's hard for me to pooh pooh any Primrose flowers, no matter what color ... they're welcome in this growing stand of plants that I'm more than willing to pamper during the drier months of the summer, which I think has been the secret to their success so far.

Definitely take a click through (or open in new tab) at this close up, and you can see just how distinctive these centers are to this particular variety ... to my mind, Primroses are all about those luscious yellow centers and all the rest of the color is just the icing. Of course I also find the foliage really attractive too, but the flowers are surely the main attraction for most people, and for those blooms that have an actual fragrance (mostly the pure yellow ones), it's heavenly as well ... a bit like a lighter rose fragrance, but all its own. You'll just have to get down close sometime to experience it for yourself if you get the chance....

It's no secret that reds are one of my favorite shades of flowers, and this variety really delivers on all levels! Just look at that deep, rich red with its delicate white edging around the petals ... a designer could hardly come up with a more elegant accent to this bloom. And again, the yellow centers provide a lot of contrast and interest to the overall blooms ... and if you look closer, you can see the delectable whites in the background ... I'm going to try to get some good shots of the yellows and whites this weekend, as they have been a bit behind the others so far.

Here's a close up shot of the reds so you can take an even closer look at just how intricate each flower is ... there's a more almost fuschia colored one blooming behind it that I'll also try to get soon, so stay tuned....

Since the weather has been cooperatively cool lately, the pansies are continuing to thrive and we're happy they're still growing and happy. Here's another variety we planted several weeks ago, and after a brief pause, they are doing quite well now that most of the bulbs have left or are departing the scene right now....

Another sun soaked shot showing off its best colors on a sunny day ... as most of you know, it's hard for me to resist deep yellow flowers and when they're mixed with deep reds, I'm hooked. These previous two shots were my picks when we bought these (along with some of the "Black" ones that are taking a break right now), so I had to include them as well.

So, once we get some garden work done today, I hope we can get some pictures as we work to keep up with what's going on out in the garden ... it's getting hard to keep up with everything popping and growing up so quickly right now ... it's been a great spring so far and let's hope it continues without any flooding this June! Just as an aside, the Dragon Arum now has not five, but eight offshoots up right now and it's shooting right out of the ground, so we're hoping that Mr. Stinky has company this year (even if we may have to keep the dining room windows closed for a couple of days)! You'll definitely know when it happens....

Update on previous poll: I've had this poll up a couple of weeks and it seems to have run its course, but I thought I'd report on the rather interesting results. Top scorers were The Godfather (6) and All of Me, (6) which kind of surprised me. Not that I thought those were obscure, but that a Lily Tomlin-Steve Martin film would tie Coppola's masterpiece, so those results pleased me. Even more surprising was Dinner at Eight coming in at 5 votes ... I was glad that others appreciate this classic does seem to have an audience out there, even if only among Urban Oasis readers. The real surprise to me was that Iron Man, with all its positive reviews and commercial success only scored 4 ... after all, I was recommended this by other garden bloggers! (You know who you are, Mr. McGregor's Daughter and Annie in Austin !) Despite what you may think of Robert Downey, Jr., it's a great film and lots of fun and comes up 4 barks up from Hanna and us! I was gratified that 3 people chose Gods and Monsters, one of the finest semi-biographical films I've seen in a long time about Frankenstein director James Whale, a fascinating character in his own right. With stellar performances from Sir Ian McKellan, Brendan Fraser and Vanessa Redgrave, this is an engaging and touching drama that deserved to be seener by a much wider audience when it came out ... it's stil not too late, thanks to the miracle of DVDs! And finally, I really didn't think anyone would choose Persepolis ... because it didn't get wide exposure, but whoever chose it, I'd like to hear what you thought about it, because we both thought it was a remarkable film to be coming out of Iran these days. No surprise that no one chose That Obscure Object of Desire, since Luis
Buñuel is one of my particular pleasures (I've been a student of surrealism for years) and is his beautiful swan song as far as I'm concerned ... even after all these years, I don't have Fernymoss converted to Buñuel's work, but I keep trying ... I'm just too much of the literary critic and film historian at heart to completely win him over. But he does enjoy these when he sees them, problem is, he can't remember them. And that's probably something that would make Buñuel proud, because he always wanted his audience to rediscover his works whenever they saw them, and he worked hard at that. Bless you, Buñuel, wherever you are ... I still revere your memory, as do many others of film scholars over the years. You are missed!

By the way, there's a new poll up about summer blockbusters, so don't forget to vote! I've already weighed in, so you can see how I voted....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Species Tulips: Little Beauty

A viewing tip for the photos: Most of you may already know that I include a higher resolution, larger photo of everything I post here, and I encourage everyone to either click through or open photos in another window (or tab if you use Firefox) to see much more detail than the version posted on this page. You'll be glad you did....

You'll recognize this lovely species tulip "Little Beauty" from last Friday's "Bloomfest" preview of coming floriferous attractions. But it definitely deserves its own post, don't you think? As I noted previously, these were a freebie I got with a large order of bulbs and at first I was dubious about whether I'd like them or not ... I just thought the whole idea of red white and blue flowers has been a bit overdone (ever notice the specifically designed "patriotic" combos sold in plant catalogues?), but now after having them perform for us so magnificently over the past four years, I'm a believer! Especially when they morphed into those orange throwbacks, mutants or whatever you want to call them. We're both delighted to have them gracing the area in the front boulder bed adjoining the steps....

This first bloom seems a bit coquettish to me for some reason, as if she's beckoning the viewer to get closer but still maintaining a modestly chaste distance....

This bloom, however, has no qualms about showing off all she's got to offer, and wow she's got some set of stamens going on in there! I do declare, Fernymoss did a stellar job on these photos, and in the larger versions, you can even see the individual grains of pollen! We just love being able to get macro shots that reveal that level of detail in an individual bloom, because often we can see how much variation there can be from flower to flower....

I just liked this ensemble shot of both the orange and reds together ... they make quite a contrast, and I find it fascinating how even in the orange "mutants" you can see the linkage of color to the original cultivar when you compare the blues at the center of the blooms. And you get a bonus flaming pansy in this shot too!

Growing these species tulips is really pretty foolproof, as long as you can provide them with a good loamy, well drained soil in a sunny position (ours get morning eastern sun and early afternoon southern sun). I've often seen them recommended for rock gardens with lower growing plants, and as seen in the previous photo I posted, they make an excellent companion to Grape Hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) because their bloom times coincide. I think they'd look wonderful with the Iris Reticulata (Dwarf Iris), except that the Irises are long gone before these little guys bloom. In fact, in previous years I've wondered if these died off because the "Persian Pearl" variety we also have planted has bloomed and gone before we see these. It's merely a matter of a staggered bloom time, which actually, I think is a nice feature. Just when you're missing the "Persian Pearls" the "Little Beauties" march on to the stage for their moment in the sun....

I got more of our bulb order in the mail today ... the Mixed Caladiums arrived, so now we've got even more bulbs that need to go into pots this weekend! I haven't grown Caladiums since I was in college and these will be a first for the garden here at Casa IVG, where we plan on placing them in shady spots (like under the spruce in back) where we want a splash of color. At least having them in pots will spare us the hassle of digging them up in the fall to bring in! So the time spent now potting them will save us time and effort later... It looks like our Fancy Cannas are on backorder, so I hope they get here in a reasonable amount of time to allow for them to get in the ground and do their thing. But on the other hand, the area we have planned for them is not cleared out yet, so we've got time ... we decided to try to eradicate that inherited Lysimachia ciliata ('Firecracker') that is trying to take over the northeast boulder bed out front. It's just gotten too aggressive where it is and since our planting space is already at a premium and dwindling every year, we just can't justify it anymore. Though it is very pretty, it needs to be at least brought under control this year (last year it was the Zebrina Mallow ... it's always something!). Anyway, once that's gone, we're going to put a 'Carmencita' Red Castor and the cannas in that spot as a specimen showcase ... hopefully this scheme will actually happen!

Poor Hanna ... she had to spend the day inside with me when it was sunny and nice outside, but by the time I was able to quit for the day, a line of thunderstorms was moving in quickly, which not only thwarted my plans to get a few Delphiniums planted, but also dashed her hopes of getting out for a walkie today! We had some thundershowers for several hours tonight, nothing serious, which was welcome, even if they came at an inopportune time....

We continue to congratulate ourselves for picking out such a great new toy for Hanna ... she absolutely loves this Monster Mouth! Even when it's not loaded with treats (as it is in this shot), she loves playing with it and having us toss it around. One nice feature about it is that it has a very irregular and unpredictable bounce to it, so if we deliberately bounce it off a wall, she has to really scramble and watch to retrieve it. The Kongs do that as well, but this one has really captured her attention at the moment and one of these days we'll finally get a shot of her head on walking around with it in her mouth with the teeth showing (it's hilarious!), but so far we haven't been able to capture this yet. You'll know it when we do....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Helper Hanna

As usual, our weekend gardening aspirations often fall short of what we plan, due to circumstances, but Sunday was a pretty good day nonetheless, especially for Hanna. Though she had to spend a couple of hours in her crate while we took Fernymoss' Mom and Dad out for lunch, she had her Monster Mouth to keep her busy (treats included of course) and she was patiently waiting for us when we got back. Since I wasn't feeling well most of this weekend, and my arthritis was really keeping me down for the most part, I was of very limited use (I did a little clean up and removed some old fencing no longer needed). Fernymoss and Hanna, however, got a lot done in the back garden and back yard ... after Fernymoss got the grass mowed, he and Hanna worked on weeding and breaking up the soil in the back veggie garden, getting it ready to be tilled. We discovered that Hanna finds this a quite entertaining game and does her best to kill those dastardly weeds ... Fernymoss was breaking up the ground, pulling dandelions and other stuff and then tossing it into what was to become a pile headed to the compost ... well, Hanna decided it was her job to jump up, catch them and shake the remaining life out of these nasty weeds! I took quite a few short videos of her in action and we decided that the following one was the best for posting, though some of the others have their hilarious moments as well. This one, however, best demonstrates her basic weed killing routine, so take a look!

Hanna Helps With the Weeding
(Click on image to play)
video
If it looked like she was having fun playing the "weed the garden" game, you can take it on our word that she was having an absolute ball! It was a little challenging getting all her high flying jumps in the frame, but this should give a good idea of what a little jumper she is ... we've noticed lately how "buff" she's been getting since we've had her, just check out those defined thighs ... she was a very muscular and solid dog when we got her, but all the walkies and exercise she's been getting since it's been warmer are really starting to show visible results! We're really pleased, because we want to do our best to keep her from getting overweight, which could have very serious health consequences for such a little frame. We have discussed an ideal weight with Dr. B and we all concluded that as long as she stays at or below 20 pounds, she should be fine (she weighs just under 18 pounds now). As tempting as it is to shower her with treats, we limit them to after dinner snacks and in moderation, and so far our strategy seems to be working out fine....

I call this shot "Garden Sentry"
I'm sure you've noticed that we keep her on a long lead (20 ft) out in the back ... we have a very solid tie out stake in the middle of the yard that gives her a great 360 degree access of all of the parts of the yard where we'd like her to play and run, without being able to get into the veggie, peony or herb beds. Neither of us is a fan of tying dogs out (especially when left alone!), but this is really for her own good ... for now. Until we get the fence repaired (which, thanks to some donated fencing from one of our neighbors who took a section of theirs down, should be soon), we just can't trust her not to escape.

As anyone who has ever had a Terrier (or Terrier Mix) can testify, they are very intense little dogs, especially when young, and they often don't think before charging after a rabbit, squirrel or some other critter, so really, this is for her protection. Fortunately she only goes on the lead when out with us (we do not leave her alone this way) and doesn't seem to mind at all, though she still does get a bit tangled up on occasion. And she respects the boundaries enforced by the lead, so it's working out pretty well so far ... we're looking forward to the day when we can turn her loose and really let her run laps but it may be a while. Since we live at the intersection of an often pretty busy street and we don't know how many "street smarts" she has, it's just better to restrict a little of her off leash time for now until we're sure she won't try to either 1) jump the fence (which she probably could do) or 2) climb out or otherwise sneak away ... so for now, we'll use the lead.

"Testing the Scented Air"
As soon as we get the majority of the garden in, we have several projects planned to improve the back yard, one of which is to get Hanna some agility activities set up, including hoop jumping. We're pretty confident we can let her off the lead to practice, as it will involve (at least at first) treats and close supervision and interaction, and Hanna loves the interaction part when it involves playing! We also plan on modifying a few areas, such as the rock ring around the spruce where we have the birdbath. Nothing of any value will grow under that spruce, and we have tried, unsuccessfully (e.g. miserable failures) to plant strawberries, cyclamens, Lupines and other flowers there and everything either dies or is overrun with weeds.

So I hatched this plan a while back ... we are going to clear all the crap out, put down landscaping cloth and fill in the area with pond rocks (we found some reasonably priced bags of those last weekend and they're quite attractive). That way at least we can keep the weeds down and provide a place to place potted shade loving plants (I have Caladiums ordered and on their way) for the summer months. But again, that's going to have to wait until the major planting is done, since it's a less time sensitive plan. The other ugly area we have is an old metal shed that we inherited with the place ... in a perfectly well financed world, we'd just rip the ugly thing out and put in something better, but with finances the way they are, that's a luxury we just can't afford right now. And we need the storage space for pots, the mower and tiller, which are just impractical to store inside ... So the tactic (again another scheme of mine) this year is to obscure it with green! Along with the recently received Tree Peony, we got a bag of 5 giant Elephant Ear bulbs ... we already planted one in a big pot out in the front boulder bed and the rest of them are going into large pots that we are going to line up along the line of the shed that's seen from the street. Since the Elephant Ears get about 6 ft tall, they should do a good job of covering up the ugliest parts, and along the base of the shed where they will go, we're also going to put down landscaping cloth and pond rocks to prettify it a bit. Of course, when that starts to happen, I'll keep folks posted here.

"Daddy did you call me?"
I took the last three shots while we were taking a break in the lawn chairs, and this last one was the result of me calling Hanna over for a visit ... I just love getting to see her run, and miraculously (thanks to the motion compensation setting on the camera) this one actually captured her pretty clearly in motion (even with a high degree of zoom). As you may have noticed in the previous two shots, Hanna has a great profile in form ... I often marvel that if dog show standards were sometimes applied to mixed breeds, one could come up with some really nice examples of confirmation. I can clearly see the Corgi shoulders, chest and length in Hanna, nicely balanced with the general lines and markings of a Jack Russell Terrier. For us, at least, she is the best of both breeds, all packed into a wonderful little bundle of joy and energy. Add in her incredible curiosity and natural intelligence, and we think we've found the ideal pup to follow in her illustrious predecessors' pawsteps.

Ok, enough proud daddy puppy blathering ... I'll return to the regularly scheduled flower blogging in the next post, I promise! There's a lot going on and more to come as the summer months approach and Hanna will be along for the ride, helping out as she can ... Fernymoss did tell me that she scared up a baby bunny on Friday afternoon, but it got away ... lucky for now, but put on notice to take up residence elsewhere!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Finally, a President With a Sense of Humor!

I didn't actually watch the coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner, instead, I watched a very entertaining and quirky film called In Bruges (starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell). I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but had read good reviews of this film, so when I saw it recently on the sale table for $3.99 I snapped it up, then promptly forgot I bought it ... until tonight, when I was clearing up some of the DVD clutter and rediscovered it. Since Fernymoss was closing tonight (and I knew he had little to no interest in this one), I sat down with my dinner and popped it in. And I was very pleasantly surprised that this film --ostensibly about two hit men hiding out in Bruges after a job gone sour in England -- turned out to be so humorous and full of enjoyable plot twists throughout. Yes, there's a fair amount of pretty bloody violence (they are hit men after all) and coarse language, but there are also some pretty funny scenes in it, some almost worthy of classic Monty Python sketches.

I won't even try to summarize its plot, because this is one of those "little" films that is best experienced "cold" to fully appreciate its quirky charms. And if you are a fan of Colin Farrell, it's a must see (I have to admit that I find him quite hot) to see him successfully tackle a role that demands that he not only be callous and cold, yet incredibly funny at other moments, while still conveying an underlying sense of humanity. That's an odd mix to have to pull off, but I think he did a great job ... and the supporting cast is equally adept at turning this bloody tale into a satisfying mix of drama and comedy. So, if you can get past the basic thematic elements (hit men, violence), it's well worth a look. Obviously this is not one of the classics for the ages, but it is very well directed and does have a tightly written script with a lot of truly witty contemporary social commentary (not particularly kind to Americans, I might add). I'd give it 3.5 Hibiscus Blooms out of a possible 5.0!


On to the real subject of this post, our President's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. As I mentioned, I didn't watch it in real time because I figured I'd catch the highlights later on MSNBC or online ... and happily, these two videos (the entire segment Obama did) were promptly posted on YouTube, so if you're interested in seeing how he did, you've got them right in front of you now! Just click on the image below for Part I.

Isn't it great to have a President with a smart sense of humor? After the last eight years of a bumbling wannabe tyrant who mangled the English language on a daily basis, it's just so refreshing to see a President who can not only express himself intelligently, wittily and demonstrate a self-deprecating sense of humor. Not to mention, some of his best zingers are well worth quoting (note the comments about Rush Limbaugh, Darth Cheney, Michael Steele and John Boehner). For Part II, click on the image below.

Fernymoss and I just about fell out of our chairs laughing at the Boehner quip, and it has to be seen to be believed. I'm sure there are a lot of Rethuglicans foaming at the mouth out there tonight because of Obama's mockery of them. One could (theoretically) I suppose debate the propriety of such a political skewering, but in my estimation, after having been demonized for the past eight years by bloviating Rethuglican gasbags, my response is basically: get over it. Payback is a bi$ch, eh? If you can't take a joke, you're seriously in need of an attitude adjustment (but we already knew that didn't we?). In case you're interested in a bit of Wanda Sykes' follow up to Obama, you can catch an excerpt here.

Ok, on to what you're really here for: the vicarious, gratuitous puppy pics! So, without further delay, here are some shots that Fernymoss took just a while ago of Hanna attacking her new favorite toy, the Monster Mouth, filled with treats. She loves this new toy that we got her for her birthday last weekend ... it has little chambers inside where you can hide small treats ... and since Hanna loves solving puzzles, this one didn't take her long to crack, but she still gets a real kick out of working it for all it's worth. And the rubber is so tough she can't crack it, something we've come to realize is an essential feature of any toy we give her....

What are you looking at? I'm workin here!

I just know I can get that last bit out if I work a bit harder at it....

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there! We're taking Fernymoss' Mom out to lunch today, then have some garden tasks ahead of us for the afternoon (clean up and more planting!) so it looks to be a busy day shaping up for us, and best of all for Hanna, she'll get to spend much of the day outside with us supervising, her favorite job! Aside from catching and shaking (to death) the dandelions and other weeds we dig out of the gardens!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sunny Friday Bloomfest

Fernymoss had all the luck today ... since he had the day off and I didn't (what else is new?) he got a lot done in the garden and I didn't! By the time I was able to quit for the day, a storm front was moving through and brought us some brief, but torrential downpours (and yes, the intersection flooded briefly), so I wasn't able to get out for very long. He got several of our new perennials in the ground: namely, the Purple Campanula, the new red Columbine, and most exciting of all -- our new Tree Peony, 'Rimpoh' and one of the Elephant Ears (Colocasia) which just arrived this afternoon! The Tree Peony plant we received looked pretty healthy and of really good stock ... with a nice thick woody trunk and several shoots already beginning to grow off the central trunk. We have great hopes for this new plant already ... as I mentioned in a previous post, it went in the back yard in the peony bed we have at the northeast corner of the fence. I'll keep you all posted on its progress as it develops....

Thanks to Fernymoss, we have some really fantastic stuff he was able to shoot while it was still sunny, in the low 70's and dry. I'll be doing more detailed posts on most of these flowers soon, but here's another preview post of some things going on in the Boulder Bed out front....

We have two established stands of this 'Species' Tulip, 'Little Beauty,' which as I mentioned in my previous post on 'Persian Pearl' is a much later blooming variety. Now, you might be wondering if these are two different varieties, well honestly, I don't know what happened that produced those orange ones! I originally got these as a bag of freebies from Park's back in 2005 when I got a bunch of tulip bulbs from them, including 'Persian Pearl.' Some kind soul there must have figured that if I liked 'Persian Pearl,' I'd like these as well, so they threw in a bag of 10 bulbs! Like their cousins, these Little Beauties have naturalized quite nicely in the ensuing four years ... the odd thing is, the first two or three years they all came up looking the same, and then in 2007, these Orange Mutants showed up along with them, blooming at exactly the same time. We're quite fine with that, as they are very attractive as well and provide a nice contrast to the others and give even more diversity to this little area of the Boulder Bed by our front steps. We definitely plan on adding more of these in the fall, because they are small, quick and easy to plant and are excellent naturalizers. I've done some shopping research on them and right now it appears that McClure-Zimmerman Bulbs (of WI) has the widest variety and best prices I've found so far. So, if you're tempted, check there first!

And yes, we have a lovely bumper crop of dandelions in the yard and garden right now! They get dug from the Boulder Bed, but we let them go in the yard, because they are really beneficial to the soil (especially if you need clay broken up, which fortunately we don't), so we let them go in the grass and parking. Besides ... without resorting to nasty herbicides, we're never going to eradicate them anyway, and we're not willing to go that far ... and honestly, aren't they a pretty reminder it's really Spring for real?


Here's a teaser close up shot of more to come about 'Little Beauty,' and Fernymoss got some absolutely spectacular shots of these in their full glory (because, alas, like 'Persian Pearl' they only last about a week at the most and these just opened on Thursday, so they're currently in their prime). I'll have a full post with more information on these very soon, so stay tuned....
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had found a pot of two hardy primroses at a nursery last weekend and snapped it up, mainly because it had one of the elusive blue blooms (the other is red). I planted these same day I got them and they look as if they had never moved and appear happy already in the Primrose Bed, so I have great hopes that they will enjoy the company of the others and multiply as successfully over the next few years....


Finally, just look at this Pansy on fire! A few weeks ago we picked up about 12 Pansies and got them out while it was still pretty cool, and now they're starting to come into their own. Of course, once it gets hot, they'll fade away quickly (but not before putting on seed, I hope!), but as early spring annuals go, Pansies are a great thing to have in the garden because they give you color when everything else is just waking up, and can thrive even with the occasional frost risk that we have through about mid May. We've taken a few risks with a some annuals, but think what we have actually planted so far could survive any frost (Pansies, Snapdragons). Hopefully we're past that threat now, but May in Iowa can sometimes bring unpleasant surprises, so that's why we're holding off on getting the tomatoes and other veggies in the ground just yet. That will happen soon, once we get the rest of the annuals and perennials we've gotten in the ground. As always, at this time of the year, we feel that manic-panic impulse to scramble to get things in as fast as we can ... we vow every year not to put ourselves in this position, but inevitably do anyway ... I'm sure we're not alone!


MOVIE NOTE: Tonight TCM had two of the early (Connery) James Bond films on and though I recorded them both, we actually watched Thunderball in real time. I hadn't seen this one in quite a few years and had forgotten how much fun it was to experience the best of the series again, and wow, Sean was at his hottest in this one, even if he was the ever womanizing, scheming almost scoundrel Bond. Though the intrigue may feel a bit dated at this point, it's easy to see how these early Bonds established a paradigm that would be shamelessly copied in (often inferior) action films of successive years (and decades). According to IMDB, TCM is showing it again on Saturday, May 9, at 4:00 pm (EST), so if you read this in time and get TCM you can catch this again if you're an early Bond fan!

FINAL MOVIE NOTE: If you are interested in seeing Dinner at Eight, which I reviewed recently, TCM is showing it again on May 14 at 5:00 a.m., so set your DVR accordingly and you will be richly entertained by this outstanding ensemble cast!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring Woodland Garden Views

How about a little change of pace from the regular parade of bulbular delights? It's not that I don't have more nice shots of the remaining bulbs blooming (I do!) ... I just am short on time for this post due to a very busy day today at work, so I've gotta do a quickie here, and since Hanna didn't do anything cute today, I don't even have a new puppy pic. Ok, I dissemble (as one certain presidential doofus once said: And that means to lie!) ... she did plenty of cute things, I was just busy and didn't get pictures!

Anyway, I thought I'd choose some of these shots Fernymoss took of the Woodland Garden in his last session, so here goes. Obviously the Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is going great guns and getting huge already, and before it's done growing it will likely reach 3-4 feet tall as it usually does. This particular specimen was one of the very first plants that went into the Woodland Garden back in 1999, so it is quite well established. I don't think we could divide it even if we wanted to because its base has gotten so woody that it would probably take a saw to do it, and that would probably kill the plant. Never mind though, this one seems to produce enough little seedlings every year that we always seem to have a few to pass along to other gardeners (my sister won't even take any more because I've given her so many!).

Let's go a bit wider here to get a little more context ... this is a peek into the "inner" part of the Woodland Garden not visible from the sidewalk, a "secret garden," if you will. The obvious plants here are the Bleeding Heart and the Hollies, but if you look carefully, there are three other plants that you'll find in this view: the emerging Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum), Ligularia 'The Rocket' (Ligularia spicata) and Ligularia 'Desdemona' (Ligularia dentata). Regular readers already know that we are huge fans of Ligularia, and for anyone with a shady or woodland garden both these varieties are absolute necessities. Though they bloom entirely differently ... 'Spicata' has a large bloom stalk that towers above the plant (thus the name Rocket) whereas Desdemona's flowers are held close to the top of the plant and will fool you into thinking they're Black Eyed Susans from a distance. Before we knew what this plant was (years ago) we'd see it in gardens and wonder just what it was because it just seemed that flowers like that shouldn't be blooming in shade! Then we found out ... and have been huge fans ever since. We currently have two of them and if we see another nice plant for sale this year, it will be coming home to join its relatives somewhere in this rapidly getting crowded area of the garden....

Finally, here's one of the many emerging Ostrich Plume Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) that are beginning to become a bit "thuggy" in this part of the garden. Actually we don't mind, because we want them in other areas around Casa IVG, so when they start encroaching on something we consider more valuable, we just dig them up and move them. With a little babying (extra watering), they quickly dig in and thrive in their new homes, as long as they are in shady places. We plan on moving a bunch of these to the front of the house along the porch foundation this year, because nothing but weeds will grow there, and the few we've already planted there are doing nicely, so these classic ferns make a great plant along foundations where you might need to cover up unsightly areas. We also have them along the Woodland Garden foundation where they blend nicely with Lily of the Valley (which are almost ready to bloom now, just a bit later than it does in France as I noted on May 1).

The weather outlook for this weekend so far is looking good ... mid 60's and only minimal chances of rain, so we'll need to get busy and get all those plants we got last weekend into the ground or pots before we make any more purchases! Though Fernymoss doesn't have Saturday off, he does have Friday (alas, not me!) off and is going to get at least the new Hellebore and Trillium in in the Woodland Garden. Looks like a busy planting weekend shaping up here, so I'll make sure we have the camera handy to document what we've gotten done.

Last weekend I ordered a bunch of plants from Van Bourgondien, (my favorite bulb supplier), since they had sent a "double your money" sale catalogue that made some things on our wish list actually affordable. So ... I ordered some fancy Caladiums, a couple of fancy Cannas, some giant Elephant Ears to plant in pots, but the most exciting is: we're finally getting a Tree Peony! We've had our eye on Rimpoh for a couple of years now and this sale finally convinced me to shake loose and order one! We've wanted a tree peony for years, but usually they are priced so high that we have to pass them by, but not this time ... we're going to put it just inside the northeast corner of the fence in the back yard with the other new peonies we planted last year, which are already up and starting to put on tiny buds. This is the corner of the yard by the sidewalk so preferred by Pepa and Rolly (for watching the world go by), and where we are going to inter their ashes later this spring or summer. We were discussing this Saturday night and realized what a great tribute it is having the Peonies, especially the Tree Peony, nearby them ... since the Peony is traditioinally a symbol of immortality in Asia, it's only fitting that they will have their final resting place among the Peonies. Sunday we saw some irregular blocks of Obsidian for sale at a reasonable price, so we think if we can find some pieces we like, we are going to get them as headstones to sink into the ground as markers. Fernymoss will use his Dremel to polish them up a bit, so if we find just the right shapes, that's how we'll commemorate these two very special dogs who brought so much happiness to our lives for so many years....