Fall planting


It is a glorious fall day in Madison, and it’s time for bulb planting.

I arrived home from Connecticut last night and saw a huge pile of bulbs in my front hall. Thank you, HHXB.

Spending a last warm day outside planting in my garden is a great blessing…and it’s so easy: dig hole, throw in bulbs. I’m planting about 750, which is less than I did in the olden days, but I’m wiser now: don’t waste money planting tulips. Plant daffodils, they come back and animals don’t eat them.

Plant crocuses because nothing is better after the snow melts. Plant blue scilla, because it is the purest sky blue.

Ok, enough typing…I have to dig!

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It feels like home to me.


The humble colchicum. So humble, I had to add it to the dictionary when I typed that. To me, once the colchicums are planted, I’m officially home.

Fall-blooming, and not to be confused with the autumn crocus, they are the answer to the question: what should I plant for the fall that the (deer, rabbits, etc.) won’t eat?

Quite expensive (about $3 a bulb) and hard to find, they are also the answer to the question, “what should I plant that isn’t completely ubiquitous?” 

They are tough, and like most good things, they multiply, so you don’t have to buy more than five. Try them…they are worth the investment, and will make your house look like it could only be your home.

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I’ve Never Been Promised a Rose Garden


So I’ll make one myself.  My favorite thing about a little downtime/lunch time later in the year (and Wednesdays generally), is that I can forget about my to-do list in the garden and start thinking about my What-If? list.

At the top of that What-If? list: a new rose garden.  The very first garden my former husband and I built together at our old house was a rose garden.  I planted some classics: Abraham Lincoln, V is for Victory (hmm…), and a bunch of adorable minatures, including scentsational, which I think is no longer available, for shame.

Now in my new house, and having just finished the book “Roses: A Celebration,” edited by Wayne Winterrowd, I’m keen to get back to my rosy roots.  A rose I’ve long wanted to grow purely for its historical associations: York and Lancaster.  I love the idea of the end of a civil war symbolized by roses to result in a blending even better than one single color.  (It wouldn’t work as well with our own civil war: not a lot of blue and grey flowers.)

My heart, however, belongs to Therese Bugnet.  I love her terrifyingly thorny canes, that are really only thorny on the bottom.  I love the abundance of her (rather plain) pink flowers.  But without doubt, my favorite thing about her is her lovely winter canes.  Winter lasts a long time up here in Madison… and if snow is on the ground for months at a time, nothing beats some red sticks to remind you of the promise of a springtime to come. 

So though I may have to make the garden infinitely larger, I will grow Therese Bugnet, York and Lancaster along with V is for Victory.  Though life may give us lots of opportunities to make our own rose gardens, it is up to us to dig them.

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Victory is sweet


V is for Victory has finally bloomed, and I’m smitten. A lovely creamy white. Some things are worth the wait. Of course, the fragrance is intoxicating. Damn fussy thing, just like its namesake.

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Baby bunnies in the fire pit


Considering themselves lucky that I just returned home after escaping the largest forest fire in the country (and am thus not in love with fire right now)…baby bunnies in the damn fire pit.

I meant to show off my improved lozenge-shaped topiary spireas (see below), but those cute bunnies are back at it.


They don’t call it breeding like rabbits for nothing.

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Thinking of Next Year

We know I’ve been obsessed with white flowers this year, and I am, but my color of the year for 2014 is going to be white as well. I just think it is so much more sophisticated than orange, purple, red, pink and yellow all mixed into one garden (even though the neighbors always love that look). And there is nothing wrong with hot colors, but I really just want white flowers everywhere. I might do some colors in the back, but out front:
white foxgloves– swallowtail nursery seems to have one that is white all the way up its throat!
White anemones– canadiensis? Is that what I had before? I can’t remember but it is the white spring-flowering one.
white alyssum– smells so sweet
white impatiens– so reliable
white columbines– I always plant these… they remind me of those poor kids…


Plants that I won’t grow from seed but will actually purchase:
Hummingbird vine (not white! HHB really loves hummingbirds, so I’m trying to get more of them for him.)
Stachys Helen Von Stein– a better behaved stachys, with large fluffy “bunny ears.”


My bulbs next year (from colorblends, as always):

Mount Hood daffodils, blue scilla, blue and white scilla– and of course Rijnveld’s Early Sensation, because I can’t stand other people’s daffodils blooming before mine do.  (No comment, SC.)  I was going to do tulips again, but my finances “ain’t what they used to be” so… I’m keeping it “simple” with 350 daffodils and 400 scilla.  Easy.

Now all I have to do is figure out the garden’s themes and I’ll be all set to plant!  After I finish digging out those rocks, of course.

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Chicago Botanic, again.


After an impressive 189th place in the Chicago half-marathon (him) HHB and I went to Chicago Botanic last weekend. As you can see from the picture above, gardens are where I am happiest in the whole world.

I’m so lucky to have had the chance to stop and see one of the finest gardens in the Midwest. I know that I’m boring, although I love the English gardens-always- admittedly, I can’t get enough of hedges lately. What they are made of, how they are trimmed…obsessed.

I think HHB was obsessed with the woman who wrote on all the little chalkboards so incredibly neatly. Everyone needs to have their own thing, I guess. Here are some great photos:








I love this place! (and may God bless HHB for being willing to listen to me show off my botanical Latin for three hours).

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AS strikes again.


Bless her heart…one of my favorite summer garden flowers, white cosmos. AS you are a ray of sunshine!

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V is for Victory


Stubborn V…finally budding. As SC said, just waiting for it to get warm, “it probably hates the cold as much as I do.” 90° and a rabbit-proof cage, and here is Victory. I hope it still smells as sweet as I remember!

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Dumber than…


So we’ve begun the rock removal process. There is no easy way to say it: it sucks and it takes for fricking ever. About an hour per four feet. I’m loading the moving boxes with rocks (very convenient), and handsome and very helpful boyfriend (HHB) is helping me literally remove the rocks by the handful. There really is no other way, since they settle next to each other so hard, you can’t shovel them, or rake them or really transport them in any other way except manually removing them.

Have I mentioned it’s a pain in the neck?

The soil underneath these rocks has been so compacted it’s like cement… the roots can’t root deeply enough, so they are running right along the surface under the black plastic landscape “fabric”… it’s terrible.

So- we got all the rocks out, and then I started on the horrible plastic edging.20130711_124726

Once we had the rocks out, it went fairly quickly.  The key to removing the edging is to start in the easy spot first (no grass)– and it would be ideal if the ground was a wee bit softer. 

Then we rototilled the front to make a much larger garden bed.  And by we, I mean HHB.  It was fun to watch.  Practice pointer: as my former sister-in-law once noted, always remove the grass from the beds after you rototill, or you will end up with really nice grass growing in the beds you just spent time rototilling.

And for those folks who say rototilling ruins the soil structure: shut up.  It’s a 10 year old house with compacted heavy clay.  “Soil structure” is a ridiculous idea at this point.

Anyway– today, we’ll spread compost on the bed, and plant it up.  I’ll have to make a path to the hose, which is conveniently located at the exact front center of the house, but that is easily doable… and there are quite a number of random bricks around here, I might be able to make it work without too much money spent!

The whole project (just the front garden bed) took the entire afternoon–so far– with two hardworking, strong adults.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  Maybe I would… he could use a little backbreaking labor.

(p.s. if you are looking to get rid of your rocks, may I humbly suggest craigslist?  It only took three hours and they are gone, baby gone.)

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