Monthly Archives: April 2011

Colorful Early Blooming Clematis

After a long winter of cold and rain, I look forward to bright colors in the garden.  By April, I am overly familiar with the cream colored flowers of Clematis cirrhosa and its many cultivars that have bloomed all winter.  Although I love the fragrance of the white flowers of Clematis armandii ‘Snow Drift’, their show is not long.

Clematis 'Constance'

It is at this transition period that many clematis in Section Atragene  (which include the many selections of Clematis alpina and macropetala) come to prominence.  In our garden at Joy Creek Nursery, Clematis ‘Willy’ and ‘Constance’ leaf out quickly, completely filling in their wire frame supports with a dense cover of apple-green leaves in April.  Their downward facing flowers show off the rich color of the reverse sides of  their tepals – ‘Willy’ revealing rosy pink tepals outlined in white and ‘Constance’ matte rose-colored tepals.  They are a sight for eyes that are starved for color.

Clematis 'Willy'

Because ‘Willy’ and ‘Constance’ are in seedhead by June, many customers assume that they do not repeat bloom.  We have experimented with these clematis and what we found is that if we dead-head the vines after they have finished blooming (cutting out about the upper fourth of their growth), they will send out new leaves and buds.  These buds will open in June and July.  The summer show is not as plentiful as that in the spring but it is still worth the effort.

'Constance' Seedheads

Sometimes we find the stems of these plants become very woody and unmanageable with age.  Last year in early June, we cut both ‘Willy’ and ‘Constance’ back to the lowest growth point on the stems (about 10 inches from the ground) in an attempt to clean up the older growth.  Visitors to the nursery worried that we had killed the plants.  There was no need for alarm.  They grew back quickly.  This year they are as bountiful as ever.  This is the second time we have done this maintenance on our 17 year old plants.

A Few Questions for Leslie about Her Class on Sunday

We are fortunate to have Leslie Gover teaching our workshop this Sunday, April 17, entitled “The Well-Maintained Garden:  Dividing, Downsizing & Transplanting.”  If you take this class you will basically never have to buy another plant ever again because you will be so good at making your own.  What she has planned is a very hands-on class where you will walk through the garden digging up plants and seeing the reasons why certain plants can be divided and others cannot.  I caught up with her as she was taking salvia cuttings in the greenhouse and asked her a few questions:

Can you divide Astrantia?

In the class title there are the terms division and downsizing.  Is there a difference between the two?

The process is the same but the end result is different.  You use division to make more plants, but downsizing is done to keep a particular plant the right size for its area.  In the end, the goal of downsizing is to have a better looking plant than what you started with.

As far as dividing goes, what are you going to focus on?

I am going to look at tools, techniques, timing, and underground plant structure and how all of these work together to get you new, healthy plants.

Is there any particular type of plant you are going to look at?

I will focus on crown based perennials but we are going to be wandering through the garden so any plant could be in play.  I will try to show which plants are easiest to do divisions and also which plants are better left for other propagation means.

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to add?

You will never know it all but you should always be learning.  I will  go out into the garden expecting one thing and come back either knowing more or having changed my mind completely.  There are no absolutes in the garden so keep experimenting and keep learning.

While basic plant maintenance is not a flashy topic, this is a great class for both beginners and seasoned gardeners alike.  Leslie is a great speaker and you will get your hands dirty.  So dress for the weather and bring lots of questions. 


A Look at Sun, Soil, and Water in Sunday’s Class

This coming Sunday, April 10, we are going to have our second class of the year.  It is “Assessing Your Garden – Sun, Soil, Water” and will be taught by our longtime employee Nadine Black.  In it she will cover the three basic elements necessary for your plants to thrive.  She will then teach the basic steps for how to evaluate each.  Learn how your garden uses these elements and discover how to enhance their effect on your plants.  I caught up with Nadine and asked her a few questions the class.

I didn't have a good picture of dirt.

What is your main focus for this class?
The main focus is how to analyze the three basics in your garden so that when you plant, your plants will thrive.
Where is the best place to start when you want to learn more about your soil?
Start by getting your hands dirty.  By feeling your soil you can tell a lot about it.  If it falls apart quickly you have sandy soil and if you can make a ball out of it you have clay.  This is not an exact science but it can tell you a lot.
Does soil type affect how much you need to water?
Soil type definitely affects how much water you’ll use.  Clay soil holds water much longer than sandy soil. 
Does this class encourage sunbathing?
In a way, it does.  Getting out into the garden and observing is the best way to determine where the sun hits when and for how long.
This is just a small part of what Nadine has plans to talk about.  There will be soil samples to dissect, a core sample of our graveled lawn, a discussion of what plants work well with certain soils, and much more.  We hope to see you this weekend.

Interview with Willi Galloway

Coming up this Sunday, April 3rd, we will begin another season of Sunday workshops.  We are very excited for our first class “Eating Ornamentally” which will be taught by Willi Galloway.  This is her first time speaking at Joy Creek and we are very happy to have her.  I was trying to put together a quick bio for Willi but that seems to be impossible because she is teaching, talking, editing, and writing is so many venues that I don’t have the space.  Her blog DigginFood is beautiful and a great place to find out more about her and all the projects she is up to.  Luckily she had time to answer a few questions about integrating vegetables and ornamental plants into a beautiful garden that you can also eat.

What are a few of your favorite vegetables for ornamental use?

I love peas with colored blossoms, such as ‘Golden India’ snow pea because their height makes them a great focal point, they have beautiful flowers and of course you get to eat them. Squash are also extremely ornamental because they have these huge, lush leaves, big, bright yellow flowers, and such a range of fruit. I like to grow bush summer squash plants because their upright leaves are so architectural and I often train vining types up fences and trellises.

Is there a particular ornamental/edible combination you love?

Last year I saw Tuscan black kale planted at the center of an urn with bacopa and calibrachoa spilling over the side. It looked phenomenal. Sedums and French or English thyme look pretty when inter-planted alongside a pathway. I spotted one of my favorite combos–artichokes underplanted with black mondo grass–in a Tracy DiSabato-Aust book. Basil also looks amazing in a tropical-looking planting with coleus, canna, and hardy banana.

When you decide to start moving vegetables out of the vegetable bed and out into the garden, where is the best place to start?

Whenever your planting edibles, it is important to start with food you like to eat. Then look for varieties that have wonderful texture or variegation in their leaves, colorful blossoms, and fruit, or an architectural form. Plants with chartreuse foliage like ‘Golden Alexandria’ strawberry, ‘Golden Jubilee’ agastache, or ‘Australian Yellow Leaf’ lettuce look like a bright light in the landscape. Also, placing a teuteur or trellis in an ornamental bed and then training peas, beans, squash or cucumbers up it is simple and provides an unexpected element.

In container planting, what vegetables have you found work well as ornamentals?

Basil is a great substitute for coleus and other annual foliage plants. There are so many varieties and a huge range of leaf shapes and sizes. Eggplant is a beautiful edible to place at the center of a pot because it has soft grey green leaves, amazing flowers, and pretty fruit. A cucumber plant spilling over the side of a pot looks really dramatic, especially when the fruit are dangling off the vine like ornaments.

I would like to thank Willi Galloway for her time and invite everyone out to her class at one this coming Sunday, April 3.