Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring Jewels

A couple quick photos of some of my favorites this week.  
Above is daphne 'Lawrence Crocker'.

alyssum montanum 'Berggold'

anemonella thalictroides 'Cameo'

fritillaria uva vulpis

 arabis alp. caucasica 'Snowball'

potentilla porphryrantha

One of the many troughs.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rock On

For the last couple years, I've wanted to do a dry stone wall workshop at The Stone Trust, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the craft of laying dry stone, in Dummerston, VT. This winter I checked their schedule and was pleased to see that they would be doing a workshop at the NY-NJ Trail Conference Headquarters in Mahwah, NJ, near the NY state line.  How could I resist a workshop so close to home?

Friday's workshop, which I missed due to work, was dedicated to the planning and prep work of the build.  When I showed up at the workshop on Saturday, the wooden frames and string lines were already in place, the stones were sorted and the gravel footing was laid.  We started laying the foundation stones almost immediately.  By Saturday afternoon we were a couple courses above ground level and started placing our through-stones (the long rectangular ones placed perpendicular to the wall in the photo above).  These long stones help tie the two faces of the wall together.

The instructors were patient with us novices, and the wall rose at a pretty good pace.  We each had out section that we worked on.  The above photo was taken this morning before we started work.

 The wall lies between the busy road and the trail conference headquarters, a beautifully restored 1891 schoolhouse building.

With about 25 people working for two days, we laid over 100' feet of wall.  Every stone is painstakingly mated with its brethren, with only gravity and friction holding them in place.

We capped the wall with some large, long stones to hold it all in place.  I capped my weekend with a couple IPAs and a hot shower.

May it stand for a century.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Draba Season

I like to think of the drabas as the daffodils of the alpine plants.  Their bright yellow is always a welcome sight in the raw weather of spring.  Above is draba novolympica growing on tufa in one of my troughs.

This one's draba lasiocarpa, growing near the edge of one of my troughs.

I'm cheating a bit to include these photos but I can't help it.  The next two are my neighbor Ray's, growing in a trough in his front yard.  Above is a draba sp.

In the same trough is this draba rigida.

Pulling back, here's the two together in the same photo.

Pulling farther back, you can see the Gothic-style hypertufa trough that Ray and I cast together a couple years ago.  It looks like it's been there forever.

In the same trough is aubrieta 'Royal Blue'.

In one of the four troughs on Ray's hellstrip is this cute arabis x arendsii 'Compinkie'.  I've killed it twice but am hoping for a piece of this clump to try again (I'm so lucky to live across from a better gardener than I am).  Hope the third time's a charm.

Lastly, here's saxifrage 'Petrushka' waving goodbye from one of the troughs in my driveway.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Magnolia Week

It's Magnolia Week here in our garden, one of the highlights of the gardening calendar.  This little Loebner Magnolia is just gorgeous right now, and not so little anymore, I guess.  A teenager maybe?  If it is a teenager, I appreciate its polite vertical habit.

The warm temps and strong sun are waking up the trough plants.  The bumpy plant in the middle is androsace sarmentosa.

I have high hopes for eriogunum umbellatum this year.  It came through the winter with flying colors and I'd love to see it bloom.  

Saxifraga 'Petrushka' looks like it's going to do its thing.

Primula marginata 'Marven'  also looks awake and ready to go, unlike some of my oversleeping (half-dead?) alpines.  

Saxifraga 'Kyrilli' looks like it's waving hello.  All four of these plants are new to me as of last year and should (fingers crossed) bloom this year.  

My favorite hellebore is blooming its head off.  Its progeny are all over the garden now.  I still can't believe that this beauty was blooming, unnoticed(!) on a nursery rack when I found it 6-7 years ago.  I felt like letting out a maniacal cackle when it was in my hands.

Although it was below freezing last night, I still cast a couple medium-sized troughs in the garage yesterday afternoon.  I was worried about the overnight low temperature so I put them in the basement for the night.  I de-molded them today and scrubbed them with a wire brush.  Barrow Works is back in business.

The weather forecast calls for 1-3" of snow tonight.  Can that really be true?

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Upgrade #1: I got a new Sneebor garden trowel for Christmas (yes, I picked it out and ordered it myself).  These tools are amazing: strong, sharp and a pleasure to use.  I got a Sneebor rock garden trowel last summer and it quickly became indispensable to me.  I'm going to give away all of the other cheap trowels that I've amassed over the years.

Upgrade #2: I rebuilt one of the molds that I use to cast the large rectangular hypertufa troughs with feet.  The old mold was at least 6 years old and well past the end of its life.  I kept using it last summer but ran ratchet straps around it in case it failed.  This one is stronger and better designed than its predecessors.  I'd like to try it out next weekend.  Never mind the arrows, by the way. I reused lumber from an old crate.  The inside mold is kind of like a magic box; it folds in on itself for easy removal.

Upgrade #3: More crocuses.  I've been relentlessly dividing and transplanting my Tommy crocuses over the last couple years.  I've got a few big patches going now; a detail of one is above.

The bees were all over them today.  Their buzzing was so loud that I couldn't place the sound at first.  I forget every year that the bees are out as early as the first flowers.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Garden Chores #1 and 2

I was out Saturday doing what's always the first chore of the garden: cutting down the grasses.  I've learned not to wait too long to do this because the new grass starts growing earlier than one thinks.  As I positioned myself and the buck saw (the culms are thick!) to chop down the Ravenna grass, I thought I spied a piece of trash out of the corner of my eye.  It was the first crocuses of the year, of course.

Our garden has the 'new haircut' look, with awkward grass stumps everywhere.  My compost pile looks like a Monet haystack.  I realize looking at the grasses that more than half of the clumps are large enough to split.  Yeah!

Sunday I started the traditional second chore of the year: cutting off the old foliage of the hellebores. I amazed at how many I have now.  I'm always finding space to plant out seedlings, especially the purple ones.  After a few years, I get to see the new (blooming) faces.

The climbing hydrangea has a shadow twin these days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Crazy Winter

Zero degrees Sunday morning.
Heavy, wet snow yesterday. 
Predicted high of 55 degrees today.

The Swiss stone pine seems unfazed, but spring will tell what the true toll is from this bizarre weather.