Savannah Garden Diary

May 23, 2008


Filed under: In bloom now, Pond — karen @ 9:15 am


The lotuses have burst out all over (Nelumbo lutea). They are bigger and more beautiful this year. You can even see the seed pods clearly. They are impossible to photograph because you need an aerial view. Thom says I can borrow the 17′ ladder.


I am slightly concerned that the lotuses are taking over the pond. They were supposed to stay in the deep end and leave the shallow end to water lilies. But I have had only 2 water lily flowers this year and there are lotuses in most of the pond. I shall have to get rid of some of them. They are native, and obviously happy. I believe there is also a more yellow version, but I like this creamy one.


And in the lawn by the compost piles, the ground orchid Spiranthes vernalis. I am so happy to see it. We had it at our old house, but this is the first time I have seen it here. That’s what you get when you seldom mow the lawn. (The wildflower book calls it “Spring Ladies’-tresses.” I don’t think much of that for a common name.)

May 21, 2008

May Flowers

Filed under: Animals, In bloom now — karen @ 7:58 am

‘ notion of “Bloom Day” is really impossible at this time of year. There is too much in flower to document it all. I strolled round the garden yesterday and found more than 30 things in flower.


Here’s a last look at the Easter lilies. They have been truly spectacular this year, but they are beginning to wilt in the heat.


This is native Canna flaccida in the bog, looking beautiful for the first and only time this year. Mary Waitzmann yanked this, or its ancestor, from a ditch near Darien. I love cannas, with their fine flowers and decorative leaves, but in this area they become riddled with pests, from leaf rollers to things that eat the flowers, so you just have to plant them where they can be admired from a great distance.


I picked up this Stokesia a couple of years ago for its really magnificent purple color. It is flourishing.


Here’s ‘Mutabilis,’ which is so tangled up in a Verbena bonariensis that it is hard to photograph. While weeding the other day, I discovered that V. bonariensis has seeded itself all over the place. I don’t remember it doing that in my previous garden.


I bought some Salvia greggii after admiring it on . I had no idea it was so sprawly. I think I rather like it, as a change from all the very vertical salvias.


I am becoming very fond of ‘Ducher.’ It flowers a lot. I really like white flowers, and, at least so far, it has a fairly compact form.


The ruckus the frogs have been making every night is bearing offspring. There are tadpoles in the pond!

May 16, 2008

May Bloom Day

Filed under: In bloom now — Tags: , , — karen @ 8:29 am

Easter lilies are out. In a surprising twist for 2008, they haven’t yet all fallen over. Do they lack calcium in their diet of something that they are usually so weak-kneed?


This is really just me fiddling around with my new camera. It’s going to take a lot of work. Never can remember the various effects of aperture and exposure.


I’ve seen some criticism of Zephirine Drouhin among the blogs, but I am still enamored of the spectacular color and her classic rose form. I’m not really smitten by most single roses (except Rosa laevigata). And the fragrance is lovely.


I really love this tradescantia with purple flowers and chartreuse leaves. I can’t remember where I found it. And whatever filter I’ve got on this camera really does do a better job on blue/purple shades than the old one.

May 7, 2008

Purple and Blue


My favorite Lobelia, ‘Crystal Palace.’ Unfortunately, it won’t take the heat of our summers, so it is with us only briefly.


The bog has turned from yellow to blue because the Iris pseudacorus is over and the purple pickerelweed (Pontaderia cordata) is in full bloom. It’s not really purple. It’s a clear blue. A few deep blue Siberian iris add to the blueness.


And the bees love it.

Verbena bonariensis in full blow. It will soon get untidy and need trimming. It’s a pity more of the California poppies behind it are not still out. That’s a pretty spectacular combination.

May 6, 2008

Sweet Peas

Filed under: In bloom now, Vines — Tags: — karen @ 9:57 am


Sweet peas in full flower. And they are VAST–about 10 foot tall. I don’t think I have ever seen them as tall as this. It must be the cow manure I dumped on the veg garden last fall.


May 4, 2008

Spring Veggies

Filed under: Compost, Veggies — Tags: , , , , , , — karen @ 8:18 am

We had our first feed of beans last night. Haricots verts, I suppose if you want to be fancy, but they tasted like green beans to me.

The sweet peas on the fence behind the beans are finally beginning to flower as they should. After a month of boring pink and white, other varieties are finally in flower. I never realized what a gap there could be between flowering times. They were all planted together in January.

The bean tepee is constructed, for the first time, of home grown bamboo. We once lived in a house with invasive bamboo along the back fence, which worried me because it was starting to stray into the neighbor’s garden. Round-Up merely made it fork. Then I read about a Maryland man who was suing his neighbor over invasive bamboo. Shortly after that, we moved.

This bamboo comes from Connie’s house, and I have known it for 20 years. In that time, it has spread hardly at all, so I thought it was safe to take a clump. So far, so good.

The veg garden hasn’t changed much since I moved it to the east side of the garden about 3 years ago. (I’ve moved the lilies out of it.) I now realize I need more space. This summer, I have beans, potatoes, various tomatoes, and the pimientos. There isn’t nearly enough space between things. It makes picking the beans very awkward. I’m not sure where to expand to. I suppose for the moment, I’ll just gain a foot or two on the south and east sides.
Here are the pimientos de Padron. I was afraid I’d lost them since I didn’t plant them last year, and they are always balky about germinating, but here they are.

For 2 years, I have been using newspaper and pine straw mulch, but I’m now switching to composted wood chips from the county dump. It’s a wonderful mulch and it’s free, but I still haven’t figured out the ideal way of getting it from mulch pile into pickup. I’m sure a hay fork would be better than the shovel I’ve been using, but I feel there should be something better. I keep hoping I’ll be at the dump when the guy with the frontloader is turning the pile, so that he can just give me a scoop, but so far that hasn’t happened.

On a completely different topic, I am strongly tempted to remove from my blogroll all those blogs that have horrid little comment boxes and catchcas, or whatever they’re called. They are so irritating to use and so completely unnecessary. I’ve never had a spam comment sneak through in 6 years of blogging.

April 29, 2008

Spring Colors

I finally finished this over the weekend. This dragon guards the entrance to the vegetable garden. It was once much bigger and it was once a fountain (long story). Now, it merely guards the water feature. (What do you call one of these overflowing pots with a reservoir under the gravel?) I’m not sure whether the colored aquarium gravel tastefully echoes the color of the dragon or is merely tacky. There a still a few bits and pieces I need to tidy up.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ will fade to a fairly ordinary green by midsummer, but it is a lovely color at the moment.
The first water lily blooms in the pond, surrounded by white nymphoides. It’s a bit early this year. We don’t count on water lilies until June.
Pontaderia has burst into flower in the last week. As usual, the blue color is washed out compared withe the original. I also have a few white pickerelweeds. The bog is supposed to be full of purple irises–Siberian irises and Iris pallida. I think, however, that I. pallida doesn’t like to be as wet as that. It doesn’t look happy, so I have hauled it out of the bog and planted it as a marginal and we’ll see how it looks next year.
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison.’ This is my idea of what a REAL rose should look like. All those cabbagey overlapping petals.
I simply love this chartreuse variety of Tradescantia, which I acquired over the winter. I don’t remember the cultivar. It looks particularly good with the turquoise cinder blocks of the yaupon holly planter! This photo doesn’t do justice to the very deep purple of the flower.

April 28, 2008


Filed under: Miscellaneous — karen @ 1:15 pm

I’ve been tagged by Simon at . I don’t know if this is some ineffably British game, or if I don’t know much about blogging, but you get to peek at some interesting blogs you haven’t seen before.

This is the deal:


Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write six random things about yourself.
Tag six people at the end of your post linking to their blog.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, six things about me:

I once overtook a snow plow in a blizzard in the Rockies and went into the ditch at the next corner. Fortunately the snow plow was behind me and pulled me out.
I once fell off a sailboat under spinnaker on Lake Ontario in the middle of the night.
My car is 14 years old.
I need to finish the living room curtains, which I started 5 years ago.
I always put my left shoe on before the right.
My favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice.

And I’m tagging mss at , Barbara at , Phillip at , , , and .

April 21, 2008

Pretty in Pink

Amaryllis ‘Apple Blossom,’ one of Coz’s leftovers. I have all too many red amaryllis, so I cherish the pink and white varieties. Of course, if I didn’t move most of the bulbs every year, they might have a chance to multiply. I find that when I buy a new bulb, it takes a year or two to get established and bloom. Some of the red ones have 6 flowers on a stem. My newer white ones are lucky if they produce three.
The sweet peas are very sweet this year, but what I want to know if why they are all pink? At first I thought the blue and purple ones must be later bloomers, but it’s been a month now and still no sign of them. Maybe I inadvertently bought 2 packets of the same variety. (From Territorial Seeds?) It’s a mystery. Better luck next year.
I think this is Tulipa clusiana. It has pink stripes outlining each petal, which don’t show up properly in this color-challenged photograph. It is exceedingly gorgeous, with the disadvantage that the flowers are very short-lived, perhaps because our springs warm up too rapidly.
I think I am finally getting the hang of pruning Knockout roses. This is Pink Knockout. The surprising thing about this particular plant is that it never gets full sun. It is in dappled shade under the pergola. It is doing much better than Red Knockout which is in full sun in the jasmine bed. When I realized how little sun this one was getting, I decided to move it into the sun, and then it puts on this show… What to do?

April 8, 2008

Pond and Bog

At Spring Fling I sort of promised that I would post about building the pond. I’m also still mulling a desultory conversation about creativity. I said something along the lines of my creative outlet is gardening because I’m no good at design. Which didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to the audience and, when I thought about it, didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. I realize, however, that a garden is always a work in progress, so my designs progress by trial and error, which seems to be the only way I can achieve anything that satisfies me.

Design Considerations
marsh in January
Our back garden is constrained by our view of the marsh. Here it is at its most beautiful in January. (The neighbor’s dock house collapsed in a January storm, so that is no longer there.) The garden has to be over, under, or to either side of the marsh view; it can’t be in the middle. (Except for the palmettos. When we removed the trees from the middle of the garden, Thom wouldn’t let me take out any palmettos, so there they remain in their uncompromising solidity, to be worked around.)
After the patio was finished, here’s what we had: one palmetto trunk, a path from the patio to nowhere, bare spots in the lawn where trees were removed, and the vegetable garden, which was sited in what was the only sunny spot in the garden when we first moved in. (The bird feeder is at the left of this photo. Despite its concrete anchor, Thom knew he was going to have to move it because a particularly agile squirrel had learned how to jump onto it from the palmetto.)
It was obvious where the pond had to go. Borrowing madly from every pond I had ever admired and wise words in various books, I wanted a beach, a viewing area, water deep enough for lotuses, hiding spaces so the herons couldn’t eat all the fish and, most of all, a bog garden reminiscent of a ditch in Okefenokee Swamp, my probably favorite place on earth. Here are a few shots from Okefenokee:
Golden club (Orontium aquaticum) and water lily (Nymphaea odorata) in Chase Prairie.
Water lily and nymphoides from the boardwalk.
Ferns and a pitcher plant (I think it’s Sarracenia minor) by the boardwalk. While my imitation of an Okefenokee ditch has been modestly successful, I do not have a pitcher plant. My bog is not a true peat bog and all pitcher plants are endangered, so I haven’t dared to try one.


With the help of a backhoe rented from Westside Rental for $275 for 3 days, I dug the hole. It wasn’t exactly the shape or size I had imagined. While there are no rocks in our sandy soil, I encountered mega roots. A better backhoe driver than I could probably have gotten them out. I just worked around them, leaving some odd ridges in the pond where none had been planned. The pond isn’t as deep as I had planned, either. This was the fault of rapidly approaching summer. I wanted to have something to show for my labors before summer heat took over, so I sacrificed depth. As with all such compromises, I shall have to pay for it with many hours dredging muck out of the pond so that it doesn’t become any shallower.
The next step was to put the liner in the pond, put some water in it, and find out where the banks are too low. Probably the most difficult bit of designing a pond on even the slightest slope is ensuring the edge of the liner is more or less horizontal so that water doesn’t flow out of a low spot. Never cut off so much as a millimeter of the liner until the pond has been full of water for a month. (Everyone does it, and everyone regrets it.)

You can see here that the bog/ditch is going to be a horseshoe-shaped thingy around the east (left) end of the pond. Opposite it will go the viewing patio (which is partly laid). The beach will be in the upper left, and a low wall on the right will prevent everything washing into the pond from the path to the patio. Two of the necessary piles of rock are shown here. In addition, there are 2 pallets (how do you spell that?) of pea gravel and 5 tons of “river rock.” (The pallets wouldn’t be any use for Simon’s construction projects. Most of them are falling apart already.)


I couldn’t resist putting some plants in the pond, even though the stonework was far from complete. The thought of a naked pond for the summer was intolerable. Stones hold down the edge of the liner, and separate the pond from the bog on the left. The deepest part is the far left portion of the pond. Here, I built a sort of brick carport to give fish somewhere to escape the herons. It is also just deep enough (nearly 30″) to plant a lotus. Water lilies (foreground) make do in shallower water.

In the left foreground, surrounded by bricks, is the water inlet. Water evaporates at a rare rate of knots (about an inch a week) in this climate, so a pond needs a permanent dribble of water. While installing the plumbing for the pond (PVC pipe buried in the lawn), I extended the water works to the east side of the garden so that I could start a new vegetable garden over there.

The low wall that prevents junk washing into the pond is complete to the right of the water inlet, and the path from the patio is dug out but not laid.
I didn’t complete the path until the following Christmas, when my son paid a visit and helped with some of the heavy lifting. Here it is in mid-winter.
The following spring, here is the little patio (there must be a better name for it than that) with the rather handsome bench from Gardeners Supply, two Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ in flower, and a Fatsia japonica, which I stuck by a palmetto for reasons that now elude me. Beyond the bench is a trio of box. These are supposed to echo the esferas, three of artificial stone and two of box, at the edge of the patio by the bird bath, but they are not yet very spherical.

I cannot think why I got into spherical boxwoods. They are the devil to prune. Square or conical would be much easier. Every box in the garden (and there are some large ones) is a cutting from one that a friend on Tybee tore out about 10 years ago. Here is the final view from the patio, one chilly winter morning. The bird feeder has been moved to a long way from the nearest tree and in front of the kitchen window.

The bank of the bog was the last thing to be planted. The first summer I planted pond and bog. Last summer we spent in Europe and trumpet vine invaded everything. This winter, I cleared out most of the mess, and started planting the bank, which is a work in progress.
The pond is not very colorful because I stuck to native plants. No flashy purple tropical water lilies; just dear old Nymphaea odorata. The lotus, with leaves held above the water, is also native, Nelumbo lutea. There is a yellow Nymphoides, but that is about it for color in the pond itself.
Here is the lotus. Its only vice is very tough stems that I can’t reach from the bank, so they stick up brown and bristly in the winter after the elegant seed heads have fallen off.
I don’t seem to have a good photo of a water lily. Or of the flowers in the bog for that matter. Here is a solitary purple iris. The bog also contains healthy populations of white Sagittaria latifolia, Sagittaria graminea, and pickerelweed (Pontederia lanceolata).
There are also some non-natives because I had to find a home for a number of irises that I moved from the front garden, where they were not happy in dry soil.
Here is Iris pseudocorus (I think it’s English), photographed this morning, with some of the early efforts at planting the bank in the background (also a bluebird box, currently inhabited by brown-headed nuthatches). Those white concrete pavers are a permanently overgrown path around the pond. People are going to walk around a pond, no matter what you do, so you might as well give them a path and minimize the number of plants they step on.

And here is the bench in April with a clump of rather horridly colored snapdragons in the foreground next to a palmetto. I show this because the snapdragons are something of a horticultural triumph, since palmettos have millions of tiny surface roots and getting anything to grow on top of them is a struggle.

Newer Posts »

Powered by