This is where you will find our irregular, random garden ramblings, musings, or answers to common questions. Any advice or opinions here are our own, and entirely subjective and free, so you know what it is worth!
New Garden SeasonApril 17, 2021
Spring has sprung early in Central New York. About two weeks early, it seems. The winter Aconites have come and gone, Scilla and Chionodoxa are waning, and daffodils are at their peak. Crabapples and maples are already leafing out in these parts, normally something that doesn't happen until May. With Aconitum and Pulmonaria starting to bolt, it may be time to finish up the fall cleaning of the garden from accumulated leaves, cutting down of ornamental grasses, and freshening up mulch while we can still see where it's needed. It's also time to see what, if any, winter damage has been done, and which new plants have thrived or dived over winter.
Dog DaysAugust 24, 2020
It has been a dry summer in Central New York, with near-record heat. Extra watering has been de rigueur during July and August. Plants that tend toward early dormancy are checking out early, including Astilboides, Bistorta, and Lynchnis. although our Lamprocapnos is still hanging on. Late August is usually a blooming lull in our perennial garden, but there are some August standouts: Angelica, Echinacea, Hibiscus, the daisy-like Ligularias (especially 'Britt Marie Crawford'), Lobelia, and Senna.
What's New?May 31, 2020
With the end of meteorological spring, most of the spring planting and moving has been completed. (However, it seems there are always a few loose ends.) There are several new additions this year, and a few newbies left over from last year. You can find out what we have added, are trying out, or are re-trying (the triumph of hope of experience, at times), by cruising the Plants pages and looking for the 🆕 icon. This year we have added two new perennials (so far). First is Hosta 'Dream Queen', a gorgeous blue and yellow medium Hosta. (We can't resist Hostas.) Second is Lychnis 'Lipstick', a tall, bronze-foliage plant with garish orange-red blossoms in mid-summer. It can supposedly go dormant after blooming in dry conditions, so we'll see how it does in Central New York. We are looking to re-plant an old favorite, Rodgersia aesculifolia, in a few weeks.
Holdover new plants from last year are Baptisia 'Cherries Jubilee', two Wiegela florida cultivars, the wildly colorful Heuchera 'Cherry Cola' and Heuchera 'Circus', Heliopsis helianthoides 'Summer Nights', Aralia cordata 'Sun King', and Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven.' The Wiegela and Heuchera have done fabulously, and look great already this year. The Baptisia was repeatedly lunched on by marauding woodchucks last season, so we will have to wait and see how it really performs this year with less munching. The Heliopsis was set back by late frosts, but has re-emerged. Finally, we found that both our Aralia and Polemonium would not tolerate much sun and were moved to shadier locations this season.
Spring Garden CensusMay 19, 2020
With (surely) the last frost behind us on May 14, it's time to survey the garden for casualties. The late frosts did a number on the Astilboides, Thalictrum, and some of the Aruncus , Astilbes, and Hostas, but they have already started to bounce back. Heucheras often get heaved out of the ground over the winter, but ours have done well this year. The main casualties this year were 2/3 of our Heliopsis planting (although they are re-emerging), and a few Echinacea. Not too bad for a winter with little snow cover for much of the winter.
Whither Spring?May 4, 2020
It's been a cool spring in Central New York, which has been great for lengthening the normally short stay for daffodils and Scilla, but has slowed down everything else. Nevertheless, perennials are starting to poke up and come to life, despite the threat of light frosts later in the week. Pulsatilla and Helleborus ('Red Racer' is especially handsome) are still in their prime , Hosta 'Stiletto' is fully flush with foliage already, and Pulmonaria and Brunnera are leafing out and setting their first blossoms, attracting honeybees and incongruously large bumblebees to work their flowers. The recent cool spell is predicted to last at least another 7-10 days as a very stubborn circulation pattern over Quebec continues to bring cool air our way.
What's in a Name?April 17, 2020
You may notice on this site some Latin names for common garden plants that look...strange. Rest assured, the name may have changed, but the plants are still the same. Scientists now have tools to examine in detail the DNA present in plant genomes and chloroplasts (the little photosynthetic engines of green plants). Based on similarities and differences in these DNA sequences, it is possible to determine how plants are related to one another, and whether or not different plants belong to the same genus or not. As a result of these studies, plants get reclassified from time to time. Sometimes, plants that were thought to be in unrelated are now recognized as close siblings, while at other times plants thought to closely related are spun of into their own classification. There are several examples of such reassignment on this site. Cimicifuga simplex, for example, has now been reassigned to broad genus Actaea, Polygonum bistorta, which has spent some time classified as Persicaria in the past, has now been given its own genus Bistorta. Dicentra spectabilis (but not other Dicentras) has been given its own genus and species (Lamprocapnos spectabile). Finally, good old Sedum spectabile is, alas no longer Sedum but the mouthful Hylotelephium spectabile.
Why should you care? The Latin name is the official, unique identifier for a particular plant species. If you obtain a plant with the correct Latin name, you will know exactly what you are getting. But you may find the old, deprecated names still used in the plant trade. The plant descriptions listed on this web site list the currently accepted Latin name, but we normally attempt to list any superseded names ("synonyms" in the taxonomy trade) where applicable. So if you see a plant here that looks familiar, but has a strange name, probably plant taxonomists have been at work!
Photography at CNY GardeningApril 14, 2020
In case you were wondering (or not), we do all the photography for images seen on this web site, including the page banners. We photograph exclusively in our own garden using Nikon equipment. The most recent photos here were captured with a Nikon D7100 DSLR and a 18-140 DX f/3.5-5.6, 16-80 f/2.8-4.0 DX lens, or an 85 f/3.5 DX closeup lens. Occasionally, if in a hurry, we have used a Nikon A900 pocket camera to capture timely images. We've recently added a new Nikon Z50 mirrorless camera system to the stable, and hope to post images from that camera and its excellent 16-50 f/3.5-6.3 Z DX lens here during the upcoming season.
Some of the images on this site are quite old, going back decades, dating to a venerable, first-generation 6-megapixel Nikon D100 DLSR system. We will be updating and improving some of these images during the upcoming garden season, so you can have a better idea what the featured plants and blooms look like.
CNY Gardening is launchedApril 10, 2020
This site is a labor of love by two long-term, part-time hobbyist gardeners who espouse an empirical "tough love" theory of ornamental perennial gardening. If it doesn't thrive, we move it somewhere else. If it persists in being an under-performer, we give it away. If it is high maintenance, we yank it out. You will find on this site mostly ornamental perennial plants and that are hardy in our changeable Central New York climate that will grace your garden without breaking your back. We hope you enjoy this site as much as we do sharing it!