Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Winter Stillness

On a weirdly warm New Year's Day, there's a stillness over the garden.  No loud colors, no scent, just simple shapes, the slanting light, and lots of tan and green.

I hadn't noticed how much saxifrage 'Whitehill' had filled in the gap between two pieces of tufa this year.  It's always done so well for us that I kind of take it for granted.

Saxifrage longifolia has also thrived on tufa in a trough.  I'm waiting for the neighboring ramonda to grow up and push back.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Lemon Twist' is getting kind of big to remain in the trough after 6+ years, a common problem with even slow-growing dwarf selections.  I love it this time of year for the light it brings so it will stay another year, at least.

Arum italicum always looks fresh in the winter.  Thanks goodness for this plant.

Dwarf nandina from a friend.  I transplanted it mid-November so fingers crossed it makes it through the winter.

Heuchera villosa always looks good.

My friend sent an image of her gorgeous winter arrangement in one of my troughs.
Thanks Hilary!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Where did November Go?

It's been a crazy month....houseguests...heavy snow...Thanksgiving.  One day I was raking leaves and riding my bike, the next I was shoveling snow and aiding stranded neighbors.  Just looking at the photos on my phone I can hardly believe this all happened within the last month.  Above is one of the sarracenia troughs.  The fall color was delightful on November 2nd.

The Gothic trough behind the garage had a moment on November 3rd.

The yellowwood on November 3rd.

Fothergilla on November 11.   This may be my favorite fall shrub.

Firepit afternoon on November 11th.  

Ilex verticillata on November 17th.  The heavy snow brought down the last of the leaves from the maple in the back yard.

Miscanthus going to seed November 24th.

Mossy hypertufa bench today.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Bubblewrap Trough

I liked the round bubblewrap planter so much that I cast a rectangular one also.

I used my regular (favorite) mold, but wrapped each exterior piece with bubblewrap.  The collapsible  inner core of the mold is not shown in this photo.

Detail of the interior corner of the mold.  The blue pieces in the bottom of the mold are 2" rigid foam wrapped in shrink-wrap.

The trough as it came out of the mold.  I didn't do much to it except soften the rim with a wire brush.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bubblewrap Planter

Three-footed round planter with bubblewrap surface texture that I cast in July.

The mold is a 24" diameter chunk of thick sonotube, lined with bubblewrap, with a piece of 2" rigid foam in the bottom.

No inner core, I just keep the hypertufa mix dry enough to not slump.  I have a belt clamp around the tube because I'd already cut it vertically with a jigsaw to guarantee that I'd wouldn't have to destroy the mold to release the planter.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The North of Iceland

The last four days of our Iceland trip were centered around the northern part of the island, using Akureyri as our base.  Above is Godafoss, another of Iceland's incredible waterfalls.  Not a tree to be seen, just thunderous water pouring over bare rock.  Icelandic history says that it was here in the year 1000 that the lawspeaker of the parliament threw the old wooden Norse gods into the water, representing a decisive break with the pagan gods and a turn towards Christianity.

This stained glass window in the Akureyri cathedral commemorates the act.

Just above Godafoss, all is calm.

Epilobium latifolium (Arctic riverbeauty) and either a hawkweed (Hieracium sp.) or a dandelion make a gorgeous vignette in the same area above the waterfall.

The lava fields of Dimmuborgir (Dark Fortress) nearby made my rock gardener's heart beat faster.  A mix of dryas, erica, thyme, dwarf willow, and dwarf birch species, along with the odd orchid, covers the slopes.  The pink of the erica with the silver leaf of the willow was a lesson to take to heart. 

Dryas octopetala gone to seed on the lava.  I can't even get it to bloom in my trough at home.


Sigh....

This guy came bounding out of the rocks to see what I was so interested in. 

Nearby we stopped at the geothermal area of Hverir.  It was only a few minutes from the above photos, but felt like another world.  Fumaroles, bubbling mud pools, steam vents, the overwhelming smell of sulphur... I was so glad that the younger kids decided to stay in the car as it's a of dangerous area for the inattentive. The whole ridge was steaming, as you can see in the background.

We took advantage of this phenomenon and soaked in the blue-gray geothermal heated mineral waters in the nearby Myvatn Nature Baths.  Warm and thick, (smelly, too) the water felt great, on my sore body, especially with a beer in hand.  Iceland is quite civilized that way.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Iceland, Snaefellsnes Peninsula



We spent a good part of one day of our Iceland trip driving around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula northwest of Reykjavik.  It's an area of incredibly diverse terrain, with waterfalls, grassland, clear streams, rocky seaside cliffs, black beaches, and mountains topped with a glacier.  Above is the famous church at Budir.

I was fascinated by the cliffs overlooking the ocean at Arnarstapi, on the southern coast of the peninsula.  The cliffs were full of grasses, silenes, sedums, thrifts, alpine lady's mantle, thyme, etc.  I wondered why I bother gardening at home...

My face hurt from smiling at this 'hanging garden'.

The variety of forms and colors on the basalt cliffs was amazing. 

I'd never seen this plant before but my trusty Icelandic plant guide points to gentianella campestris.

Clear stream, mountain, no trees.  I never got tired of this type of scenery during our trip.

Rock formations along the approach to Djupalonssandur beach in Snaefellsjokull National Park.

A little further along the same trail.  

Approaching the beach.  The dude in the midground is photographing named lifting stones used to test fishermen's strength.

The black beach of Djupalonssandur with bits of the Epine shipwreck from 1948.

The glacier Snaefellsjokull overlooking the lava fields leading up to the ocean on the western tip of the peninsula.





Sunday, August 19, 2018

Iceland, Southwest

We returned late this past week from 12 days in Iceland.  It was our first trip there despite it being on our short list of vacation destinations for decades.  We were lucky to travel with a close Icelandic friend and her family who live in NJ.  She had a very ambitious itinerary for us, and we kept moving in order to pack as much as possible in the time that we had.  

Above is Lake Thingvallavatn at Thingvellir National Park, the area where the Icelandic general assembly first met in the year 930.  It's a gorgeous natural area, with rocky outcroppings denoting the rift in the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

I was constantly amazed how the geography changed every few meters.

This area was nearby the above photos.

The clear water allows for deep visibility.  Diving is allowed in one area, despite the water being quite cold.  One person I spoke with said that when he dove the water was so clear that he had to get over the fear that he might fall.

The Icelandic Turf House near Selfoss, a group of wooden farm buildings partially built with stone and turf for insulation.

I saw many of the alpines that I grow at home in their native habitat.  The arctic thyme was everywhere, and blooming a gorgeous pink.

The non-native lupinus nootkatensis was brought in to help control soil erosion.  It's all over the island now, but quite iconic and beautiful.

lathyrus japonicus (sea pea) I think

mertensia maritima, oyster plant

armeria maritima, sea thrift, going to seed, plus more thyme

 The natural distribution of these alpine plants over the southern end of the rocky Reykjanes Peninsula made me wonder if I'm overthinking plant placement in my garden.  

And seeing the inhospitable soil and windy conditions that these plants grown in made me realize that these are seriously tough customers.  I probably coddle them too much at home in the troughs.

The ubiquitous moss over a lava field.

We visited the Setlun geothermal area nearby, where the earth bubbled and steamed in a sulfurous stench.  

As a farm boy from Iowa, where one can drive 5 or 6 hours with no change in ecosystem, I was blown away by how close together all of these strange landscapes are on one small island.