Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Young Summer At Dusk

It's strange how so many dark and electric-colored flowers and plants can be so intriguing at dusk. Yellows and variegation in foliage also brighten up areas when the sun goes down.

I have wanted a white garden all my life but have yet to plant one (next season, or more likely this coming fall). But for now these deep, rich and bright colors, yellows and variegation are exciting me! They are completely striking at nightfall and their tones are just as rich as the summer night sky. So lets take a little stroll at dusk in the Cornwallville gardens.

In the photo above is Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks On Fire', a host gift from Bob and Andrew at Loomis Creek Nursery in Hudson, NY. They have one outside their greenhouse that is 2.5 ft. tall and just mind-blowing. This little guy is waiting to be potted up and its pink succulent fingers just glow at dusk! Perhaps they should rename this variety 'Glow Sticks'.

This begonia above, Begonia rex 'River Nile' has lived in our parlour all winter and now resides out in the containers by the kitchen door landing. Its soft light pink flowers are just starting to pop and greet us at night.

There are a great variety of container gardens here at the M.H. Merchant Stone House, all of which will be featured soon. This one is planted with a burgundy ivy geranium, Pelargonium pelatum 'Blizzard Compact Burgundy'. These flowers get darker and darker as the light fades.

Also around the kitchen landing I have a Japanese painted fern next to the stoop. Blue-green and grey foliage gives off a light fuzz at dusk. The chartreuse Coleus makes the area pop.

Now over to the island perennial beds where I planted a slew of Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset' last year. I thought they were an annual but they have all returned and are starting to burst out with their orange-bronze and mahogany blooms.

To continue with the orange theme I have a cluster of Kniphofia 'Alcazar', out by the drive. Just like the Euphorbia at top, electric colors glow at dusk whether orange, chartreuse or pink.

In the same bed I have a grouping of Achillea filipendulina 'Gold Coin', a fernleaf Yarrow with 5" golden yellow flower heads. The Verbascum thapsus, and faded seed heads of Allium 'Gladiator' complete the scene.

A new plant to the market that I am trying out is Monarda 'Purple Rooster'. A true purple Monarda that is mildew resistant and robust. Although, I have been having issues with its weak stems; they seem to break in a breeze. Gorgeous nonetheless, I would most likely plant more of them!

Now to the back rockery patio and shade gardens. Mid-way through the path that leads you there I have this little area of variegation. I have an Abutilon 'Variegatum' planted in my faux bois (left), Hosta 'Striptease' (top center), and Salvinia floating in my water bowl (right).

Out on the rockery between my faux bois planters I have a patch of Nicotiana 'Babybella'. The plum red flowers stand at vertical positions almost like moths perched on the tips of sticks.

Finally, planted out in a hollowed tree stump I have Begonia 'Bonfire', eye-popping red blooms dangle at nightfall. This is an all-out great annual with the added bonus of returning next year if you store them properly.

I urge you all to take a walk at dusk in your garden or park and see how the tones of flowers and plants change in low light. You will be surprised at the beauty you'll discover.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Our First Plant, A Blackcurrant

It's the first day of summer here in Cornwallville and it is the perfect day! The winds is blowing, and the temperature is cool and dream-like.

I was just walking the gardens spot weeding and noticed our first plant that was ever dug into the soil here. No, it isn't a unique perennial or an exotic annual or even a patio tomato.

It's a Blackcurrant shrub or Ribes nigrum. An inconspicuous looking bush that sits at the edge of the South Meadow.

I turned some of the upright branches to find beautiful black gems dangling underneath the foliage. I popped a few in my mouth, and the tart almost deep blueberry like flavors hit my taste buds.

I quickly ran to the house to call Stephen of the news. Three summers ago when we moved in to the M.H. Merchant Stone House, our first day we went down to our local organic farmer, Farmer Todd.
We introduced ourselves and got talking, an hour later we left with bags of organic vegetables and a small Blackcurrant bush that he gave us as a house-warming gift.

When we got home I just planted it at the edge of the meadow for a "temporary" spot, because there was no gardens at the time, but as of yet it hasn't moved.

The fruit is extremely high in vitamin C content, 302% of your daily value. Plus good levels of vitamin B5, potassium, iron, and phosphorus.

Currants were once tremendously popular in the U.S. in the 1800's, until believe it our not, Currant and Gooseberry farming was banned in the United States in the early 1900's. The plants were the host for white pine blister rust, a disease that threatened the logging industry at the time.

The ban has only recently been lifted in New York state in 2003, and is still banned in Maine and New Hampshire.
Currant farming is making a comeback in New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Oregon, for good reason. This shrub is an amazing producer. One established Blackcurrant can yield up to 11lbs. of fruit.

I think when our vegetable garden is built next year we will be planting more of these outstanding plants!

Ribes nigrum, or Blackcurrant
Full Sun
3-6ft. tall
Fertile well drained soil, to sandy clay with a pH of 6-6.5