Packing for a tropical vacation

With an expected frost within the next two weeks, it’s time that I start thinking about moving our tropicals to their winter homes. Thanks to the hospitality of friends who have a four-season sun room in their home, our mandevilla and passiflora vines have a safe place to overwinter until their early spring return to our front porch and deck.

Before their transport, I wanted to clean out any dead vines and wire them securely to the trellis and stakes to make the plants more compact in their winter home. The dead vines were easy to remove with bare hands and a pair of bypass pruners. I untangled the vines that had grown “out” instead of up, and wired them with clip twist plant ties (left). These are by far the best method I’ve ever discovered of wiring vines to a trellis.

The two mandevilla pictured (a red variety of unknown cultivar) were purchased in a two for one sale at Sid’s Greenhouse in Palos Hills, IL earlier this summer. They graced our front entryway and bloomed continually and prolifically all season long. Even with the cooler nights (in the 40s) that we’ve been having lately, they have performed well. A few days ago, I moved them to our back deck so that they would get more afternoon sun and thrive until I can transport them to their winter home.

In the next week, I’ll be packing these vines up along with their other heat-loving botanical bretheren up and sending them off for their winter vacation in the tropics.

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From one gardener to another

In my mind, there is very little that compares to the generosity of gardeners. Whether it’s the sharing of plant divisions or picking up and extra flat of annuals as a gift for one of our friends of the soil, gardeners seem to be genuinely interested in spreading good will in the form of seeds, roots and blooms.

Yesterday was no exception. A fellow gardener and friend who attended my birthday celebration last night came bearing a gift wrapped in small pot. Inside, I was pleased to find five Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ bulbs. This particular Allium displays 4″ round, lilac-colored flower heads on 24-36″ stems. I’ve never grown Allium in my garden, but have always admired it in other locations, so I’m eagerly looking forward to next May when I can enjoy the flowers.

Today, I planted the bulbs along the base of the ‘Fat Albert’ blue spruce (Picea pungens), behind Mugo pine (Pinus mugo) in our front border. The spruce should provide a nice textural backdrop for the Allium flowers and the color will complement the nearby Baptisia australis.

I hope I can return my friend and fellow gardener’s generosity in the near future.

Hardscape in glorious 3-D

Up until this week, my ventures in hardscape have been limited to two dimensions. Well, perhaps one dimension: flat. I’ve done brick edgers and flagstone paths, but nothing that possessed the characteristic of altitude. So when my wife asked me last week what I wanted for my birthday, I naturally said, “a retaining wall.” My birthday happened to coincide with a some vacation from work, so this past weekend, I started planning a raised garden planter that is part patio bench, part block retaining wall.

Continue reading Hardscape in glorious 3-D

The most indescribable flower

The blue passionflower (Passiflora, maybe ‘Incense’?) that I rescused from our local garden center clearance pile has finally recovered from transplant shock, and is treating us to a beautiful bloom now nearly once a day. Many of them have been hidden in an amongst the foliage, but this morning I was able to get a clear photo of a freshly opened flower. It would be nearly impossible to adequately describe its unique form, so I will let this photo speak for itself.

So greatful to have a friend with a conservatory in which to overwinter this and my other tropical vines. We’ll hopefully be enjoying this Passiflora for many years to come.

Note (11/20/09): Thanks to Simon Eade for help in identifying this variety. The nursery tag said “blue passionflower”.

Strolling along a pulchritudinous plank toward the sea of floridity

I was recently introduced to the beautiful, entrancing prose of Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game). Each volume consumed my attention over the course of several cool late July and early August evenings. As I turned the final page of The Angel’s Game to complete the second novel of his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, I felt literally spent, exhausted from the immersion in the world of Ruiz Zafón’s characters and creation. Simultaneously I was struck by disappointment that I would have to wait perhaps years until his next novel is published in English (the orginials are written in Spanish). I cannot remember the written word ever effecting on me such a complete emotional response; it has me looking at words — and more specifically fiction — in a completely different manner.

Continue reading Strolling along a pulchritudinous plank toward the sea of floridity

Scout’s honor?

My last 24 hours have been consumed by a serious dilemma, the correct path from which remains unclear. My son has expressed interest in joining the Cub Scout pack based at his elementary school, but I hold serious reservations about allowing him to join an organization that is openly discriminatory (through official policy) against religious non-believers and homosexuals.

In the official FAQ from Boy Scouts of America, persons not subscribing to theistic belief cannot be scout members or leaders. The BSA definition of God is admittedly ecumenical and inclusive, but only for those faiths that subscribe to the idea of a personal God who bestows “favors and blessings.” A person is prohibited by policy from being a member or leader unless he subscribes to this general concept of God.

Continue reading Scout’s honor?

A truckload of weeding later….

It was a full, busy day yesterday (5:30am-5:30pm) chopping through the backyard, removing weeds, relocating some plants that were underperforming in the ever-increasing backyard shade, and spreading a yard or so of mulch among the borders. Though my back was complaining from all the bending and lifting by mid-afternoon, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day made up for it. After avoiding the backyard and its unkempt state for most of the summer, to see it transform from a weed-infested, overgrown jungle into something I’d be proud to show other gardeners made the days work worthwhile.

Aside from general cleanup, weeding and mulching, I completely overhauled the southern end (adjacent to our raised vegetable bed) of the back border. It had been a haphazard mess of orphan plants that never jelled together into a cohesive whole and over the years had become an area of nearly full shade from the overarching honeylocust tree. While trying to weed and clean it up, I decided the best course of action would be to dig the entire bed out, and start over with plants more conducive to the new shady conditions. So out came the siberian iris, spiderwort, purple and yellow loostrife, feather reed grass, and maiden grass — which I relocated to an unused portion of our raised beds that serves as a temporary plant nursery/recovery room. In their place against the backdrop of a red-twig dogwood, I moved some orange daylilies and four hosta from other parts of the yard (where they had become overcrowded) and an old garden bench — now more garden art than furniture — from the southern side yard. In the next couple of days, I hope to add a few containers with coleus, and perhaps a couple of shade tropicals to finish off the corner.