Hardy Geranium or Aggressive Weed?

Mistaken identity seems to be a running theme with me these days.

While finally tackling the seemingly Herculean task of finally weeding the side garden, I noticed that what I have thus far believed to be a geranium was running rampant and spreading itself all over the place.

Full disclosure:  before I settled on “geranium,” I wondered if this particular plant might be one of the blue aquilegia from seeds I planted nearby last fall or possibly a bleeding heart  (Didn’t I plant one there my first summer here, gosh darn it?  And where did IT go?)  Sigh.

I thought it looked like a hardy geranium I had bought and planted across the driveway…it had lovely purple flowers last year and the leaves do indeed look similar…I don’t remember planting this particular plant, though, and I’m starting to wonder if it might be a plain old weed.  One that is spreading.  I pulled up many of the little babies that were popping up left and right but saved the big plant in hopes of figuring it out.

Last year I let several weeds grow happily nearly all summer long just because I wasn’t sure what they were and wanted to give them time to see who they became before ripping them out.  Nine times out of ten they were weeds.

In case it rings any bells for any of you, I’m including a few photos of the current culprit: (again with the camera phone!  Sorry!)

close up of Mystery Plant stem

close up of Mystery Plant leaf

Mystery plant seems to grow in a mound. This one is about a foot tall.

I am pretty sure that my aquilegia seeds DID come up behind this plant and that these are the young columbines here:


The leaves of this plant are kind of similar in size and shape to the Mystery Plant, but I’m pretty sure this one is Aquilegia…at least it came up right where the marker says I planted seeds! (See, I do mark *some* things now and then…trying to get better at this!)

Any ideas?  Is it geranium?

When are Virginia Bluebells NOT Virginia Bluebells?

When they are  Symphytum grandiflora ‘Hidcote Blue’, otherwise known as ornamental comfrey!

Thanks to Stacy over at the fantastic blog Microcosm, the plant I thought to be a variety of Mertensia, aka Virginia Bluebells, has been correctly identified!

This is not the first time I’ve purchased plants that were mislabeled.  I thought I was buying Viriginia Bluebells and had specifically wanted them for a couple of partial – shady spots in the yard.  The plants and flowers look very similar and it wasn’t until I was home in PA last week and visited my friend Bev’s garden that I noticed the leaves of her Mertensia looked very different from mine.

Fortunately, my ornamental comfrey (!) has performed fabulously in both shady locations.  The blue flowers are gorgeous, and the fuzzy dark foliage remained all winter (granted it was a mild one.)

Here is a comparison between my plant and photos of  Symphytum grandiflora ‘Hidcote Blue’ found online.  Thanks again, Stacy, for figuring it out!

my plant, about 24 - 28" tall.



Symphytum grandiflora 'Hidcote Blue', photo obviously swiped from http://www.highcountrygardens.com


close up of leaves and flowers of my plant

close up of Symphytum grandiflora 'Hidcote Blue' on http://www.plantdatabase.ie


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Another site indicated that ornamental comfrey can be invasive in some areas, but so far it has not shown signs of wanting to take over the yard.  It has grown in the past year, but I must say it’s been one of my favorite plants in the garden.  I’m hoping it will continue to be well behaved!

What’s Blooming in January

Normally I don’t think we’d have anything actually blooming in our backyard this time of year except for the Hellebore.

This winter being so frighteningly warm, we have a few more things to add to the “blooming or on the way up” list.

Here is the Hellebore, which I planted a year and a half ago.  This is its first time blooming.  It is quite small, only one flower, but it’s been blooming for a few weeks now and is lovely to see.  It rained yesterday so it’s a bit dirty, but lovely to see nonetheless.

Hellebore in bloom

My Galanthus seems to have decided that it’s officially Spring:

Snowdrops in bloom already! Last year it was March before they emerged.

That’s it for actual blooms, although several things are already poking their way through soil and up into the air…I’m not certain what most of them are, thanks to the lousy job I did labeling bulbs last year!  Time will tell, and once they’re up this year I’m going to label!

Bulbs emerging...I think this is Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) Maybe.

All bets are on Daffodils here...

I think these are crocus leaves...

Here’s one I do know, thanks to Bev who helped me to identify.  I sent her a picture and  told her it had a really unique smell when I rubbed the leaves…sort of spicy, musky…”like aftershave” was as close as I could get!  She immediately identified it as Feverfew!  I’m glad to know some of the seeds I planted last year came up (and didn’t get mistakenly identified as a WEED by me and subsequently pulled.)

Feverfew, nice and green - and it will stay green all winter!

Here’s another one I didn’t label:

this could be Foam Flower or Lavender...(it's Tiarella / Foam Flower!)

Last year Bev gave me a Purple Coneflower transplant that had some Sweet Woodruff tagging along in the pot.  Here they are, apparently doing well and starting to spread!

lovely little Sweet Woodruff

one of a few tiny patches of Sweet Woodruff

This next one has me stumped – and a bit worried…

This plant smells very strongly of oregano or thyme, or some savory herb.

It’s growing around my Mondarda (Bee Balm) and once again, my lack of labeling plants last year now puts me in the position of now knowing if this something I planted by seed or a volunteer of some sort.  Here’s the close up and the worrying part:

same plant - is that POWDERY MILDEW on the leaves??

I noticed toward the end of summer that the Monarda has a pretty bad case of powdery mildew, and this is right under it.  I hope I don’t have a big problem on my hands here! Not sure what can be done about powdery mildew, but I did notice some in that area of the garden at the end of last summer.  Yikes!  At least the Sweet Woodruff, which is in the same area, isn’t showing signs of being affected!

Gorgeous Mystery Vine Flowering!

Wowee – It’s been a while since I posted! Memorial Day goings on and being busy at work have kept me from my blog – and from too many other blogs that I love to visit as well.

I’m finally ready to play catch up.

There’s a lot happening in our garden right now – tomatoes are growing at an incredible rate, African Blue Basil tried to flower on me (I pinched them all off in hopes it will keep growing), the Morning Glory has triumphed over the slugs, and lots of things are gearing up to flower.

For now, I’m posting this picture of a vine that is growing back along our driveway wall. The “soil” there is pretty compacted and it’s definitely not the most ideal spot for anything to grow, yet this beauty seems to be doing just fine. I nearly pulled it a couple of weeks ago but figured I’d let it go to see what it did…turns out it does this:

Pretty cool, huh?

Anyone have any idea what it is? Or how to propagate it? It’s lovely and so far doesn’t seem invasive…I might like to see more of it around these parts!

Official Unveiling of The Mystery Rose

It’s a mystery no more…she has started to bloom her socks off and it looks like this is just the beginning.  Three open and twenty-four more buds on the way!  I wish I’d had my camera (these were taken with my phone, so not the best quality – DRATS.) I just can’t wait to take more, though, and must share my excitement!

The red of this lovely rose has turned out to be a much different red than the garage wall behind it…much brighter and richer and alive.  I have always been drawn to lighter-colored roses, but I must admit that this one has won me over.  It’s just gorgeous and I’m so thankful for this wonderful, free gift that just came with the yard when we moved in!

We are looking forward to many more blooms – and to showing off this beauty over the weekend when have our first backyard BBQ since moving in. Just in time!

A Sneak Peek at the Mystery Rose

Not long ago I posted about our “Mystery Rose,” which was either planted by the previous tenants or by the landlord.  We don’t know how long ago it was planted, and I wasn’t even sure it was going to make it.  When we moved in last August it did not look well – lots of old, dead wood and canes and not much growth.

I went to town with the pruners, hacking some down to nearly the ground and leaving other canes there in case I was somehow screwing up – I figured if I’m doing something wrong then maybe it will only affect half the plant and I’ll at least be able to see what results I get from my pruning.

The rose seemed very  happy to have been pruned and has a lush show of green leaves now and – TWENTY SEVEN buds!

Until two days ago we had no idea what color they would be or what to expect at all.   Then I saw this:

I would have put my money on someone choosing a color that contrasted with the red concrete garage wall behind the rose, but not so – it’s nearly the same color!

There are many buds getting ready to open, and I still don’t know exactly what these climbing roses will look like as they pop, but we now know what color to expect!  I might not have chosen this color myself, but hey – I’m just happy to have a healthy rose bush climbing away out there – it’s nearly 7 feet tall and still climbing higher.   The dark green foliage will really set off the bright red/fuchsia blooms.

Two days ago there were only two buds that looked like this:

This morning there were a dozen!  It’s very exciting!  I wonder if they will have any scent?   We will know very soon.

I have since noticed that many of the neighbors on our block have the same color rose out in pots in front of their house – only one light yellow rose among all these bright reds.  Is it an old Italian thing?  Did someone give cuttings to all the neighbors?

Actually,  it looks like it might be a similar color to the  rose that Mimi rescued last year over at Gardening in The Boroughs of New York.  (look at her last photo with the bud just appearing.)

Mimi, we’ll have to compare these climbers when they bloom!

Mysterious Plant: Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch? (WITH UPDATES)

Friend or foe?  I don’t know!

I couldn’t resist the Wizard of Oz reference, as my garden has been a sort of enchanted world to me this spring.  (And I wouldn’t say no to that beautiful field of poppies, either.)

Shortly after we moved into our place last August my friend Bev gave me quite the housewarming present – a carload of perennial divisions and seeds from her garden.  You can read the list of gifted plants here.

She had clearly labeled all of her seed packets with name, color of flowers, any special notes and  instructions as to whether the seeds should be planted in Spring or Fall.  Wonderful!

So, last fall I went around the borders of our yard and side garden, scattering seeds, willing them to come up for me this year.

The question is, have they?  Unfortunately, I just don’t know!  This is our first spring here, and so there are lots of things coming up – perennials from Bev’s divisions, plants that the previous tenants had left behind, bulbs that I planted last fall, and random things that have re-seeded themselves here and there (like the Rose of Sharon).  I don’t know my weeds very well and I am also new to perennial gardening, so I don’t know what to look for in most of these emerging plants.  Some I know are biennials and so they may look different this first year than they will next year.

So far I know what Lambs Quarters looks like (and that I can eat it, and that it grows all over  our yard!), and I think we’ve identified a lacy-foliaged patch of plants as Larkspur (which I am ecstatic about – they came up!  They came up!)  Larkspur

I’ve been reluctant to pull up certain things until they get large enough that I can hopefully identify them…and that time has come.

I need to do some research and look at some google images, but if anyone out there happens to recognize any of these plants (whether they be good or evil), I’d sure appreciate knowing.

Sadly, I LOST MY GARDEN JOURNALS.  Everything.  Ironically, I left them at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Plant Sale at the cashier desk.  Unfortunately the journals were never turned in to their lost and found.  I really don’t know what good all of my maps and charts and info and records would do anyone else, and I keep hoping that they’ll be turned in but it’s not looking good.  SO, I no longer have a record of  which seed I planted last fall, but here are the ones I’m pretty sure got planted and I’m on the lookout for:

Foxgloves, Feverfew, Hollyhocks, Butterfly Weed, Forget-Me-Nots, and Hibiscus Trionum (Flower of the Hour.)

Not so sure about: Cockscomb, Calliopsis, Cleome, Miribalis (Four o’Clocks),  and Dwarf White Zinnia – those may have been spring-planting seeds.

At any rate, and with no further adieu, here are the mystery flora…all 20 of them-yikes! I’m hoping that at least half of them are “good witches,” but I’m not so sure I’ll be that lucky.

**Comments and names refer to the photo above.
Mystery Plant #1

Mystery Plant #1, overhead view

Mystery Plant #2  (one vote for WEED)

Mystery Plant #2, overhead view (one vote for WEED)

Mystery Plant #2, full view (one vote for WEED)

Mystery Plant #3
Mystery Plant #4 – lovely purple flowers! (Tradescantia, SPIDERWORT – a keeper!)

Mystery Plant #4, close up (Tradescantia, SPIDERWORT – a keeper!)

Mystery Plant # 5 – long and leggy, near the Persian Shield (possibly Heath Aster?  Worth keeping a while to find out…)

Mystery Plant #6

Mystery Plant #7

Mystery Plant #8

Mystery Plant #9
Mystery Plant #9, another view

Mystery Plant #10

Mystery Plant #11

Mystery Plant #12

Mystery Plant #13

Mystery Plant #13, overhead view

Mystery Plant #14

Mystery Plant #15

Mystery Plant #16
That’s Mystery Plant #16 in the foreground. The large plant behind it is Mystery Plant #17.

Top view of Mystery Plant #17. To the right you can see a small rose that self-seeded in this unexpected spot. It doesn’t receive a full day’s sun back here, and yet this wild rose seems to be growing. Go figure.

Mystery Plant #18, overhead view. (possibly Heath Aster?  Worth keeping a while to find out…)

Mystery Plant #18 again. Long, leggy and grassy…looks like Mystery Plant #5, which makes me think it is likely a weed.  (possibly Heath Aster?  Worth keeping a while to find out…)

Mystery Plant #19

Last but not least, Mystery Plant #20.   (Likely a tree…giving it a few more weeks to see what it does.)