Ideal conditions

Gail playing Musical PlantsFor the next few weeks Gail and I will plant, divide and move perennials in any kind of weather short of a monsoon-style downpour but we both had to agree that, even though we are Spring-sun junkies like most people, yesterday’s weather was perfect.  Overcast, spitting rain here and there, somewhere in the 50′s or low 60′s – the plants hardly noticed that they were being messed with and we warmed up as we worked. And the weather for the rest of the week looks ideal for a stress-free settling in. Camperdown elm (Ulmus 'Camperdownii') - emerging leaves are like flower petalsWith rain and cloud-cover, plants can concentrate on repairing roots rather than urgently putting on green growth and photosynthesizing (and wilting from the exertion). It’s perfect weather for garden gazing and photography too – gray skies make colors pop. As usual, hover over for captions and click on for larger view.

Weeping beech (Fagus pendula) flowering and leafing outWe picked up where we left off last October when we rearranged the furniture in the North Garden, and took out a few more Phlox paniculata ‘David’ and added in our favorite (OK, my favorite) Phlox paniculata ‘Natural Feelings’. We replaced the standard pink Japanese anemone with white, early flowering Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’. Norway spruce (Picea abies) female flowersWe tucked in a few sweet flag (Acorus calamus ‘Variegatus’) for some bright spears to break up the monotony of a predominantly billowy garden. And we plucked out a few of the front row catmints (Calamintha nepeta) and replaced them with a 12″ speedwell (Veronica ‘Twilight’) that we have high hopes for.  And everything we took out (aside from the potentially mildewy phlox) will be replanted in another garden. Gail calls it “Musical Plants” and we do a different version of that cake walk every year. There’s nothing like moving boring old perennials to another garden to rejuvenate our interest in them. Do you do that too? (- Do you ever move them to a friend’s garden and then want them back again?)

My current favorite combo - Tulipa 'Artist' and Phlox divaricataWhen I decided on the title for this post it occurred to me to mention conditioning flowers for arranging. Our volunteer flower arrangers are starting work this week and tomorrow Gail or I will cut tulips for Terri who is leading the pack. (Once or twice over the course of the season, each volunteer arranger will make two arrangements for the house with flowers and foliage we cut from the grounds.) Tulips are pretty easy as cut flowers go: Cut them before they’ve opened and place in plenty of water with a leaf or two still attached. They’ll keep growing in the vase and according to Garden to Vase: Growing and Using Your Own Cut Flowers by Linda Beutler, they prefer sugary water to bleachy and should last 10 days. My favorite trick for keeping the stems straight is to drop a penny in the vase – but sometimes a graceful flop is a lovely development. Do you cut your tulips or leave them in the garden?

6 thoughts on “Ideal conditions

  1. The weather here in Utah has been wet. I feel like I’m back in Boston, and so does the garden. It’s exploding like a MLB on steroids. I even have black morels popping up in some bark mulch I put down last fall! Yum!

    I treat tulips like perennials, for the most part. In the fall, I pack groups in 50s and 100s tightly in my veg/cutting garden specifically so I will have some for the vase. I hadn’t heard about the sugar water or the penny trick; I’ll have to give them a try.

    Susan, What a weird spring! How lovely to have such a tulipferous garden – and dedicated for cut is a good idea. In my own garden, they’re the only things going right now and I won’t cut them. -kris

  2. Don’t you feel as if you’re doing it right when the weather cooperates with transplanting? We’ve also had the beautiful wet weather. (I thought ‘David’ was supposed to be mildew resistant?)

    I think Susan is smart to put her cutting tulips in with the veg or cutting garden. I buy tulips in quantity, a few hundred each fall, and I started doing that specifically so I could cut some. But they’re so gorgeous in the garden that I bring in only single blooms or small bouquets for the most part. I didn’t know the sugar/penny thing worked for tulips, thanks for the tip. I enjoy the way they grow and squiggle in the vase, but I had a friend who was very irritated by it, she wanted them to stay put!

    Pomona, Phlox ‘David’ is mildew resistant at least for a while… Our plants are fairly elderly and pretty crowded and stressed and most seem to have reverted to old habits. It’s funny about the penny trick – I thought everyone knew about that but it wasn’t even in the book about conditioning. Happy to help! -kris

  3. I thought the same about the weather yesterday although I was driving and not dividing. Trying to get home early enough to have energy to work in the garden is a challenge! I have the same combination of phlox and Tulipa ‘Artist’ in my garden so your picture warms me as I look at it. Today looks even better for the garden. English weather is what I call it! Enjoy the dirty day!

    Layanee, It’s too true about having enough energy at the end of the day… I hope this weekend you can get some quality garden time in. – I think it’s not supposed to be quite so dirty weather-wise! -kris

  4. Kris, I read this post yesterday but the pictures of the Camperdown Elm just didn’t register until I was at Peckham’s and saw one over near their new fish pond. What a keeper! Now I want a Camperdown Elm. I think they are hard to find. Though about visiting but time was short and I knew you were muddy with swamp bottom. LOL

    Sorry to have missed a visit and you totally need a Camperdown! I’ll keep my eyes peeled though with all your travels you’re more likely to spot one than me… -kris

  5. I like to play musical perennials. You are right about sometimes wanting them back.
    I love to cut my tulips, after all that digging them in you must enjoy them close up. I love the way they behave in the vases. Thank you for the tip on making them last longer.

    Cyd, I know I’ll regret not cutting more tulips – they seemed to open so early this year… At least Terry made a couple of gorgeous arrangements for visitors to enjoy. -kris

  6. Errata: When I meant I treat tulips as a perennial, I meant annual. Wow, do I even think when I type?

    Too funny, Susan – but I knew what you meant! -kris

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