Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Heather in containers

As September approaches, I've been thinking about changing the plants in the urns on my balcony.  There are still flowers, but not as many as I'd like and the display doesn't look tall and bushy enough. 

Researching container options for fall/winter, I came across a nursery that specializes in heather.  Wow! I had no idea it was such a colorful winter bloomer and that literally hundreds of varieties are available.  I immediately went into research mode, trying to create a short list of my favorites.

I'm eyeing Erica x darleyensis 'Dunreggan':

Erica x darleyensis 'White Perfection':

Erica carnea 'Golden Starlet' mostly for its foliage color, a bit for its growth habit:

Erica carnea 'Lake Garda':

and Erica carnea 'Clare Wilkinson':

I tried to find plants that would bloom white in winter and grow as tall as possible, while avoiding the true heathers (Calluna vulgaris) because they need acid soil which might upset their container-mates.  (I'm not sure who those container-mates will be at this point, but I'm trying to keep my options open.)  Unfortunately the tallest genus and species is only hardy to Zone 7, which of course is too tender for a container garden in Boston.  I also chose a couple of heaths that bloom pale pink or purple because I have a feeling that in January, February and March (but not before then!), I'm going to want to see a little color peeking out from amid the green and white.

I can't believe I've never considered heathers for the winter garden before and I wonder why aren't they more discussed.  From what I've read, they would really like the growing conditions at our beach house too.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

An arched hedge entryway for the roof garden

Last week while studying the roof garden, I decided that what the right side needs is an evergreen hedge with an arched entryway cut into it:

I'm craving more of a feeling of privacy on the side of the garden, so if the tall evergreen hedge doesn't do it, I might even add a door:

The hedge would run along the edge of the patio, perpendicular to the new boxwood hedge I just planted.  It's a really short span, so I might need as few as 5 plants. 

I did some research to find the best type of evergreen shrub for the job.  First of all, I had to take into account the tiny size of the garden, the lack of much soil depth for roots, the weight load restrictions and the fact that the garden is in Zone 6.  Ideally, the shrub would grow quickly to about 8 feet and max out at a depth of about 2 feet.  I like the look of Italian cypress, but of course it's too cold to survive here.  I did decide that something dark green and glossy would be best. 

Right now I'm looking at 'Sky Pencil' holly:

'Graham Blandy' boxwood:

And 'DeGroot's Spire' arborvitae:

It's pretty confusing because the height that each is supposed to grow to changes depending on who you ask.  For my purpose, the difference between 8 feet and 15 feet is huge.  I want a lush, robust-looking hedge, but I don't want a giant that's going to get out of control.  Also, I want something fast growing to its mature height because I'm impatient.  I'm going to pay a visit to my local nursery and see what they've got.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Boxwood bonanza

I went to Home Depot yesterday to pick up some hooks, eyes and epoxy to make trellises and install guide wires for some of the roof garden's climbers.  Naturally, I couldn't resist a look in their nursery.  I was happy to see that they had a sale section with plants marked down to $4.  Among the sale plants were some small "Green Velvet" boxwoods.  I've been thinking about planting a boxwood hedge for the past month but the cost made me hold off in the hope that as other plants grew in, the boxwood wouldn't seem as necessary.  At $4 a pop, I loaded the ten healthiest plants into my cart.  I'm a strong woman but I can't resist a crisp and classic evergreen hedge for the price of a bouquet of cut flowers. 

The spot I had in mind for them was along the front edge of the stone patio.  I'd deliberately gone for something much more free form at the beginning of the season but for the past week or two it's just been looking like a mess. 

I think I need a little more structure, even if I then rough that structure up around the edges.  The sweet peas were on their last legs and the plants I selected weren't tall enough for the space.  I want to cover the beige part of the wall at a minimum, but probably have something that goes up as high as the top of the parapet wall, covering the black aluminum flashing.  (The boxwood is about 12" tall at the moment, needs to be about 18" to cover the beige part of the wall, and 24" to be level with the top of the parapet.  According to the label, 'Green Velvet' grows slowly and tops out at 3ft.)  Evergreen is a big bonus because the patio is front and center in the winter.  In the photo above I'd already torn out a big clump of sweet peas from the left (see foreground) before I thought to take a "before" picture.

It took a while to relocated the plants that were doing well, once the sweet peas were out.  The heuchera 'Caramel' rejoined its friends on the right side of the garden, the languishing epimedium 'Bandit's were re-situated in what I hope is a shadier place, etc, etc.  Here's what the area looked like once I cleaned it out:

Then in went the bargain boxwoods:

My idea is to ultimately train some climbers on the railing behind the boxwood hedge and tuck some small white annuals or perennial white perma-bloomers in front of it for constant color.  As you can see, my Clematis 'Sweet Autumn' is already encroaching nicely on the iron railing from the right hand side.  Maybe a large-flowered early-blooming clematis on the left?  By next summer I also hope to have a long, narrow high top dining table and chairs on the patio in front of the new hedge. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A few new short plants

Yesterday I made another trip down to Avant Gardens to see what they have for fall.  I had some coupons from my first visit so I made that an excuse to shop.  It's always fun to poke around there.  Such gorgeous and unusual plants, even though they tend to be more colorful than I can use in the roof garden.

I ended up with a pair of tiny cymbalaria muralis 'Snow Wave', which has variegated green and white leaves and flowers white. 

I had 3 non-variegated cymbalaria at the beginning of the season but either I over-watered or too much sun/heat did two of them in.  The survivor has quadrupled in size since late April and there's something cheerful and cute about it…enough (combined with the variegation) to coax me to try again.  Fingers crossed - the $10 price tag felt really steep for such tiny sprigs.

I also got three dianthus 'Itsaul White' to add to the single dianthus I picked up at my local nursery a month or two back.

These plants looked very robust and the color and their grey spiky foliage will contrast nicely with some of the other leaf shapes and colors. 

The double white balloon flower I mail-ordered at the beginning of the season was one of the plants that got off to a shaky start.  It was puny and its leaves gradually browned until I didn't hold out much hope for it.  At my local nursery, I noticed other balloon flower plants blossoming as mine languished.  Then a couple of weeks ago it started to turn around.  Now it's doing very well and the large-ish pristine white flowers are a treat.  I came across three more happy balloon flower plants (these are platycodon grandiflorus 'Fairy Snow') at Avant to contribute to solving my problem of too many small-flowered plants:
Finally, as a nod to late-summer flowers, I picked up a single asteromoea mongolica

It's very tall (3 feet now), which is something the roof garden needs near the chaise lounges and pergola, but its wispiness is useful in maintaining a sight-line across the harbor.  It dances in the slightest breeze, which will either add charming movement to the roof garden or get on my nerves when glimpsed from the corner of my eye.  We'll see!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dreaming of large flowered clematis

I came back from a long weekend out of the country to find a single flower on my clematis 'Isago'.  (It has several other buds.)  This poor plant had a really hard time getting established.  I suspect its because it's in a slightly shadier location than my other clematis.  For a couple of months it looked like it was dying.  Then it put out some new leaves, and now this:

I am so happy it made it!  I also think its flower is gorgeous. 

'Isago' and 'Huldine' are my only large flowered clematis.  (Of the small flowered types I have 'Paul Farges', Sweet Autumn, clematis viticella luxurians 'alba' and even the tiny non-climbing clematis integrifolia alba

I've been thinking about what I'd like to change in the roof garden next year and one of my tasks is to replace the huge and ungainly stand of sweet peas that has thrived in front of the patio area with some more considered perennials.  The garden needs more plants with either large leaves or large flowers to balance out all the dainty delicacies so I think I'm going to put in one or two large flowered clematis where the sweet peas are now. 

Brushwood Nursery has a huge selection but I'm looking especially at 'Henryi':



and 'Madame Le Coultre':

Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A bedside table splurge

My husband and I took a drive to Newport, RI for the Newport Antique Show the last weekend of July.  There were lots of beautiful things, all with unpleasantly high price tags.  We came across a c.1690 English oyster veneer walnut table and fell for it hard.  A couple of weeks later (we had to make a trip to the dealer's store in Ipswich, MA with our Jeep to pick it up) and here it is in our bedroom:

It's in great condition and the wood has a wonderful sheen - almost like lacquer.  (I ordered protective glass for the top.)  We've been looking for a bedside table for my husband's side since we moved in.  We'd been planning to get a chest, to pick up some extra storage space.  Sometimes the heart trumps the head.  I have a similar but later and more rustic French provincial table on my side of the bed and the almost-symmetry is interesting.  Next up, a pair of tall lamp bases to go on each of these tables, topped by these shades:

I'm thinking either cut crystal or Murano glass but who knows?  White ceramic could work too.  These Asian crackle ones with wood bases came up for auction last weekend but I was too busy to go to the preview and check them out in person:

Anyway, we're planning a trip to Venice in a few weeks and I have high hopes for what we might find there.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Clematis 'Paul Farges'

My clematis 'Paul Farges' burst into flower while I was out of town last weekend. 

I'm amazed at how quickly it has grown and by how many flowers and buds it's producing:  I planted it just two months ago.

The rest of the garden is hanging in, even though I haven't been spending much time grooming it.  Some of the plants have grown enough to start crowding out others.  The three stubbornly minuscule 'Brigg's Moonlight' daphnes are among the victims.  I moved and divided two artemesia 'Silver Brocade' late last week.  They had completely overgrown part of the brick path so you couldn't walk by on it anymore.  The annuals are also going a bit crazy: sweet peas and euphorbia especially.  I might move one or two of the euphorbias downstairs to the balcony planters, which haven't been fairing well.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Roof garden mystery

Recently, we came back from a weekend at the beach to find this:

That's my baby magnolia tree: in bloom!  (It was late July when I took the pics.)  Bizarre, right? I don't know what would cause a magnolia to bloom *months* after normal magnolia blooming time here in Boston, but mine did.  Anyone out there know the solution to this mystery?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

An iron pergola for the roof garden

After months of waiting, reminding and begging on our side and many broken promises on the other, our ironworker finally delivered the iron pergola we hired him to make back in early April.

The poor grape vine had grown into itself so badly while waiting for the post that it took me more than an hour to unwind its tendrils.  (A few, unfortunately, had to be cut.)

The variegated honeysuckle 'Mint Crisp' is also already 'attached' to its new support:

Hopefully as the plants mature the pergola will give the garden some much-needed height and a feeling of seclusion.