Monday, August 18, 2014

A Strange and Eerie Fog

I woke up today and all was white and otherworldly outside my windows. People who live in places like the Pacific NW and England may be used to their London Fog, but this is pretty strange for out here in the middle of the prairie. Here are a few photos of my ghostly garden:

Thick as pea soup. The Herb Garden, with only the edge of the field beyond. It's like a curtain has descended.

You can just make out the gazebo across the Park, but not much beyond.

The Garden Shed and three mysterious trees beyond.

Our orchard looks downright creepy. Very sinister....

Even sunflowers look less cheerful without sun.

Beyond the Yellow Garden and the rest of my back yard, it looks like you might fall off the edge of the earth.

Past our house, the driveway appears to lead into the void....

Strangely peaceful, though, as it starts to lift.

Thanks for reading! -Beth

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Surprise! Every year I forget about these Surprise Lilies.

Every spring, the first green foliage to emerge from the earth on my property is the Surprise Lily, many of which were growing here when we moved to our property in 2008. Lycoris squamigera is the scientific name for this bulb, which has numerous common names: Surprise lily and "naked ladies" (due to the lack of foliage covering their stems) are the names I've heard around here, but it's also known as spider lily, magic lily, resurrection lily, August lily, pink flamingo flower and hurricane lily, among other common names.

But by any name, they are a beautiful flower with an interesting growth habit: As I mentioned, the foliage is the earliest to emerge from the ground each spring, in early March -- their green leaves truly a sight for winter eyes.

This photo from early March a few years ago shows the Surprise lily foliage poking out of the ground.
I love spring!

By the end of March, the long, strappy leaves can be more than a foot in length. Sometimes these leaves annoy me if they flop all over, so I've been known to trim them down by one-third to one-half. This doesn't seem to hurt the flowering (but if you removed all the foliage, the bulb would probably not store enough energy to flower later).

The strappy leaves in late March.

After six weeks or so, the leaves turn yellow and eventually shrivel up and disappear. "How disappointing!" one might think. All those annoying leaves and then nothing. But by this point, so much else is happening in the garden that the lilies are forgotten, lost in the mists of garden time. Tulips bloom, followed by peonies, irises, roses, delphiniums, Asiatic lilies, coneflowers, shasta daisies, phlox, Oriental lilies and of course, the numerous glories of summer annual flowers. Each has its moment, like the ages of man.

But as late summer brings us back to school, suddenly, out of a bare spot where nothing visible existed before, appears this:

Hey, that wasn't there yesterday.
Oh, yeah, I totally forgot about those!

Just when the sunflowers and zinnias and cosmos are looking great and the vegetable garden is yielding its full bounty, up pops a tall shoot, overnight! And the next day, it flowers.

They manage to take me by surprise every year, although their beauty
should be unforgettable.

With peony foliage behind, and four o'clocks and roses in the background.

Lovely and fresh, just what is needed in August.

I greatly enjoy my surprise each year when they bloom again. I'm so glad they were here when we bought this property, and I highly recommend them to you as a fun flower -- they do well in partial shade and full sun, are virtually maintenance-free, and they multiply, so you can dig them up and divide them to have more every five years or so, but only if you want to. But who wouldn't want more of these beautiful lilies?

Thanks for reading! -Beth

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Early August Blooms

Even though I feel mentally and physically pooped out at this point like I always do by mid-to-late summer, my gardens don't notice and they just keep doing their thing. This sometimes seems to me to be somewhat miraculous, until I realize that the uncontrolled and unpredictable nature of plants is what keeps them blooming even if I'm not constantly cutting back, weeding and watering everything. I may have planted them, but the plants are on autopilot.

We threw our kids' birthday party at our house and had lots of people over for that event last weekend, so we did, in fact, spend some time mowing, weeding and deadheading in anticipation of that. But this week has been spent preparing for the beginning of the new school year home schooling my kids, so I've been a bit distracted, and I confess that feel a bit surprised that there's actually all this beautiful flowering going on in spots outside my house, even though, again, I planted all of it.

Anyway, here are a few photos of nicer scenes from my gardens over the past week or so:

Obedient Plant (physostegia), purple phlox, shasta daisies 'Becky', hollyhocks, coneflowers and cosmos in the middle section of my Front Border.

The east end of the Front Border, with phlox and cosmos. Roses can be seen in the background....

...and here's a closeup of them. 'Lovely Fairy' is looking good these days, after dying back nearly to the ground last winter. This is their second flush of bloom.

The oriental lilies on my porch railing (which really needs to be painted) might be 'Stargazer'. They smell heavenly.

The Peony Bed, with roses interplanted with four o'clocks, which are supposedly poisonous to Japanese beetles. I've noticed a lot fewer of those nasty insects this year, and I read that our very cold winter killed much of their larvae. One good thing about the dreadful winter, anyway.

The Rainbow Border. The zinnias are starting to bloom, but the color effect is still a bit weak, although it can still just be perceived.

The North Border is starting to become more colorful, filling with sunflowers, zinnias, petunias and cosmos. There are still a few holes in this border, in its 2nd year, but I'm thinking about how to improve it. I think I'll add some tall Asiatic lilies this fall to start with.

A closeup of the center of the North Border. The zinnias are looking especially nice this year, I think.

And another closeup, with shasta daisies, zinnias, sunflowers, phlox in back and a lovely pink mum 'Clara Curtis' just coming into bloom at far left.

The north, shadier half of my White Garden beds, with white liatris, meadowsweet filipendula, cimicifuga, 'Crystal Peak White' obedient plant and 'Henryi' clematis on the close side of the arbor seat.

The south, sunnier half of the White Garden beds, with 'David' phlox, 'Casablanca' Oriental lilies and 'White Swan' coneflowers. White wisteria is growing on the the arbor seat pillars (which has not yet bloomed for me in two years). This area is at its peak right now and looks all right.

Flowers really are miraculous things, are they not? Such beautiful blooms despite our spotty attention. Thanks for reading! -Beth