Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What's Wrong With These Pictures?

It's Lovely Weather For Daffodils . . .

Saturday, January 06, 2007

June In January?

It was bound to happen – what with the temperature inching toward 70 all week. My daffodils bloomed. Rijnveld’s Early Sensation and Tete-a-tete in bright and beautiful splashes of springtime yellow in the front and backyards.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of you have been emailing me your reports of crocuses and forsythia opening and quince and cherry trees flowering and lacecap hydrangeas with buds swelling by the minute. It’s freaky. Heck, the New York Botanical Garden reports that the candytuft and Spirea thunbergii are in bloom.

So what’s a gardener to do?

Enjoy the show.

But to set the record straight, the forsythia you’re seeing probably isn’t forsythia at all. It’s winter jasmine. Mine started blooming well before Christmas. Its season is now and if you don’t grow this cascading evergreen shrub with little buttery yellow flowers, you might want to consider planting it. In most winters it’s the first shot of yellow in my yard until the witch hazel shows up.

And the cherry trees that are doing their thing right now aren’t the pretty-in-pink Kwansan variety that soften suburbia in May. They aren’t the famous Yashino cherry trees that have been coloring the nation’s capital since they were given to us by Japan in 1912. In fact, horticulturists in Washington, D.C. have been trying to allay fears that the current – and totally expected – show of so-called “autumn-flowering” cherries won’t hurt the annual springtime show of Yoshinos.

But to get back to my daffodils, and perhaps yours. First of all, my friend David Caras of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center tells me there’s nothing you can do. So really, calm down. Even if it gets cold again – and you should count on that – the bulbs themselves won’t be hurt. The bulbs will just slow down again because they only bloom with the encouragement of warmth and moisture. Don’t worry – any foliage that sprouted will survive.

Of course, the buds will get blasted by the cold. Depending on how far along they were when that happens, this spring’s flowers might be ruined or if you're lucky, the petals may simply have some brown edges. And if your daffodils are in glorious bloom right now, well, just figure spring has sprung.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is mulch. All that will do is hold in the warmth and promote the growth of nasty things like fungus and insect pests.

Which may be the real legacy of these balmy days.

So is it global warming? Is it El Nino? Is it Mother Nature giving us a wake up call? Is it time to buy a hybrid car and turn off the lights? I just saw "An Inconvenient Truth" so my answer is maybe.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What's IN, What's OUT

Traditionally, the New Year is a time for trend-spotting. What’s in and what’s out. Where we’ll be living and vacationing. What we’ll be eating and wearing and watching and otherwise doing with our hard-earned dollars. Well, gardens are no exceptions. But it takes an expert to go out on a limb – or at least a stem. My trend-spotter of choice is Suzi McCoy whose Pennsylvania-based Garden Media Group is always ahead of the botanical curve. Here’s her list with my two cents thrown in.

Outdoor Living is IN. Indoor Living is OUT.
I’m all for outdoor living. When I bought a new patio set a couple of summers ago I made sure the market umbrella and chair cushions were just the right shade of green so they didn’t clash with my just-painted house. I haven’t gone so far as to add a chandelier or working kitchen but I do have a leaky outdoor shower and my container plantings complement the color scheme.

Escape Gardens are IN. Everyday Gardens are OUT.
Which means that even if you can’t get the time off to fly to Turks and Cacos you can turn your garden into a tropical haven. Just add some banana plants or cannas or bougainvillea or hibiscus. Suzi suggests the Bahama Bay hibiscus collection featuring varieties in 12 colors that bloom from spring through fall. I’ll check them out this season. And for added inspiration, you should take a trip to the tropical garden at Farmingdale State University.

Streamlined Gardens are IN. Shabby Chic Gardens are OUT.
Down with kitsch and cute. When it comes to pots and plants, sleek and sophisticated will rule. Let’s hope.

Eco-Chic Gardens are IN. Chemical-Needy Gardens are OUT.
I’m a breast cancer survivor. Need I say more? Of course, my garden is organic.

Small Space Gardens are IN. Colossal Landscapes are OUT.
Everybody keeps talking about down-sizing and scaling back. But all I see in my neighborhood are monster houses swallowing the land. But in the garden, small is indeed BIG. Plant hybridizers make it easy with everything from tomatoes to roses that are just right for growing in containers. Even clematis has been brought down to size, thanks to Raymond Evison, who introduced his line of Patio Clematis a few years ago.

Larger-than-Life Accents are IN. Peek-a-Boo Accessories are OUT.
If small gardens are in, does it make sense to super-size the plants and pots?

Foliage is IN. Flowers-only are OUT.
Bring on the elephant ears and ornamental grasses. Suzi is touting Simply Beautiful’s Isolepis cernua Live Wire coming this spring.

Multi-tasking Gardens are IN. Time-consuming Gardens are OUT.
If you ask me multi-tasking is time-coming. It will be the downfall of civilization. On the other hand, if you can get a plant to do a little extra in the garden, well, that’s a good thing. So let your ruffle-leafed lettuce double as an edging plant in your perennial border and use chili peppers to spice up your containers.

Fancy Plants are IN. Basic Plants are OUT.
Suzi says to forget about classic cars and vintage wines. Luxury plants may be the next big collectible. I’m happy with my Toyota and I don’t down anything stronger than Starbucks triple lattes. She says to keep an eye out for plants like Deinanthe bifida Pink Kii.

Designer Veggies are IN. Store-Bought Veggies are OUT.
I’m not sure the world is ready for a Donna Karan tomato or a Ralph Lauren eggplant. But specialty vegetables like purple potatoes and chocolate peppers are certainly in vogue. Suzi likes the mild-flavored White Satin carrot from The Cook’s Garden and the Napa Tomato, a sweet-tasting grape variety from W.Atleee Burpee.

Masses of Color are IN. Colorless Masses are OUT.
What’s to argue?

24-hour Gardens are IN. Day-only Gardens are OUT.
It’s a nice thought but I sleep during the night. Of course, I do have moon flowers.

In or out, up or down, it’s up to you. Whatever trends you embrace, just keep gardening.