Friday, June 15, 2018

The mulch pile is GONE

I started taking a series of photos of the pile of wood chips in the driveway as we chipped (HA!) away at it, but failed to keep up. Just moving all that mulch was work enough. Yesterday my SO finished it off while I made an semi-emergency run to pick up my granddaughter from her summer program (stomach bug). What a relief to have that gone! Maybe the neighbors will stop commenting on it now.

Meanwhile, more plants are blooming. I purchased this 'Chicago Lustre' viburnum because I was assured it would help the 'Blue Muffin' set fruit. I don't know how that could happen when they bloom at different times. I know I should just let that go, but it still bugs me.

At least the 'Chicago Lustre' doesn't smell like something died.

The good old 'Betty Corning' clematis vines are going to town. The tuteurs are doing a good job holding them up although I still needed to wrap some twine around them to keep them from going too far astray. I was more successful with this one than its mate, which is sprawling across the nearby juniper chinensis.

The 'Avant-garde' clematis is not blooming yet, but has already outgrown its own (shorter) tuteur. I forgot that it gets so tall. Maybe next year I'll provide it with something to crawl up once it reaches the limit of the tutear.

This hosta receives more sun than the rest, so it is blooming first. It is in the bed with the yucca that won't die, under the sandcherry. I think this variety is 'Francis Williams'.

The only long-lived coreopsis I have found is 'Zagreb' but this bit of 'Tequila Sunrise' persists nevertheless.

The smokebush shrubs are smokin'! The purple leaf one by the house almost always looks dramatic...

... while 'Golden Spirit' is more subdued. This is the second season for the latter, so maybe when it grows big and strong like its cousin, its "smoke" will make me go WOW. And if not, I still love the foliage.

Believe it or not, I *still* have not finished transplanting, but I'm working on it. Last night I repotted a few that I think need to be a bit bigger before going into the ground and took inventory of the rest. Despite the weather, my neglect, and several dog attacks, there are few casualties. This weekend promises to be a HOT one, so it will be a few more days before I complete this task.

Meanwhile, I did some pruning of redbuds. How old are these trees? According to this blog, I planted them in 2011, which makes them older than I realized. It seems like just yesterday they looked like sticks!

Sunday, June 10, 2018


The weather is just not cooperating with my gardening efforts. Too hot, too humid, or like today, too wet. I did clear out the asparagus bed and planted coneflower and rudbekia there. Now I am looking critically at other difficult-to-manage areas of the yard and garden to determine what might be easier to maintain. Like the "orchard" and the rings of castle block around the redbuds. I love my yard but sometimes it is overwhelming.

The leggy annuals are not putting on much of a show (yet), but the random blooms do look perty.

Giant Scarlet-Red Zinnia

Dyers Coreopsis

Torch (Mexican) Sunflower

The lance-leaf coreopsis is supposed to reseed itself, but this year there is just one lone patch. I *suppose* if I kept that area weeded better, there would be more. I think mulch may interfere with the reseeding, too.

Ignore the burdock

I really did weed the south side of the house but somehow missed the thistle growing up in this little patch of shasta daisy. It is one of the bedraggled-by-the-rain flowers.

Ignore the thistle

Another bedraggled specimen is the Stella d' Oro daylilies. They are busting out all over town, though, so hopefully mine will pull through soon.

Put the rain on 'pause' please

The goutweed, a.k.a. bishop's weed, is doing its thing. This bed is relatively isolated so (fingers crossed) it won't become a pest. However, if it keeps the weeds at bay, maybe letting is spread is not such a bad thing. (Can you tell I am tired of weeding?)

Soon the utility boxes will be hidden

This is its third season. First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap.

Seed on!

We were hoping to eliminate the weed pile in the driveway today but RAIN. I've been keeping up on the mowing and not much else. Right now the forecast is for a wet week, but hopefully we can get some things accomplished in between showers.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Falling behind

These pix are about a week old, record peak bloom times (more or less), and are already out of date. But here we go anyway.

I know I have posted photos of the blue false indigo before, but it has been one of the stars this spring. Every time I think it has peaked, it outdoes itself.

And it bloomed in succession, from south to north, so the show just kept on going. If only it bloomed all summer long. It's done now, of course.

I'm new to dogwood, so wasn't sure when the Pagoda dogwood would bloom. And when it did, it wasn't all that spectacular. I tried to get some pix, but the blossoms were all at the top and I was too lazy to fetch a ladder. This is the best I could do from ground level.

This catmint is another star that keeps looking better and better. What I thought was milkweed popping up in the middle of it proved to be Indian hemp, which I've decided to discourage since it can rapidly take over an entire area.

The Betty Corning clematis is further along than this pic shows. I have two; one gets more sun and is usually bigger and fuller, but they are both stupendous specimens. Last year I purchased new tuteurs for them. Luckily, I decided to anchor the tuteurs to the downspouts; otherwise, the whole shebang would have toppled over by now.

I think this is the 'Blue Muffin' viberunum, blooming away but rarely does it set fruit. It is done now too.

Despite my neglect, a few irises bloom each year. They came with the house. I couldn't decide which pic I liked best, so here are two.

These are 'Sunny Twinkles' allium. I planted them many years ago, and each year they look a bit better. They are not quite tall enough for the back of the bed, but they do peek through.

If they stood up more and splayed less, they would probably be more visible; I think they need more sun. In this pic, they are surrounded by 'Zagreb' coreopsis which is just going wild this year, spreading into large masses. This is the only long-lived coreopsis I have ever found. Can't wait for it to bloom.

This shrubby clump turned out to be yellow sweet clover, an alien. It no longer lives here.

The rhododendron was a disappointment this year. I also managed to miss the peak bloom time for the cotoneaster. That pile of mulch (which is nearly gone) has taken up a lot of gardening time.

Meanwhile, I decided to eliminate the asparagus bed. Keeping it weeded was just too much work. Since a farmers market may be found here almost any day of the week in summer (and once a week all year long), growing my own food has lost its urgency. Also, Costco. Need I say more?

Sunday, May 27, 2018


The weather is not cooperating with my goal of getting all the plants transplanted by June 1. Yesterday the rest of the 'Torch' Mexican sunflowers and all of the 'Scarlet-Red' zinnias went in. The latter mostly filled the edges of the madder bed. I planted madder for its roots, which are used to dye fiber red, but it is not much to look at. Hence, the red zinnias. The balance of the zinnias and Mexican sunflowers went into a raised bed along with the surviving dyer's knotweed. Trays of seedlings have been sitting on the deck for about a month, undisturbed by the dogs, until one of them decided the chew up half the dyer's knotweed, plus a few empty seedling pots.

I have also been weeding. Instead of clearing a whole bed at one time, my MO is to pursue eradicating a particular weed all around the yard. Today, until the heat and humidity drove me inside, it was Canada thistle. This strategy is helpful in areas where I am growing something I am not that familiar with, at it helps prevent me from yanking the wrong plant. For example, while working in the "prairie" area, I was able to identify some lance-leaf coreopsis and asters that I might have pulled had I not been scouting for the thistle. Another easy to spot and remove "weed" is volunteer wheat that pops up where I have mulched with straw.

Speaking of mulch, the pile is shrinking. Despite piling it on thick, some plants like pokeberry and milkweed are breaking through. I let some of the pokeberry survive because I want to use the berries for eco-dyeing. The milkweed I have mixed feelings about. Part of me wants to limit it to the milkweed patch, but I hope the more I have, the more likely I will get monarchs that will lay eggs.

Yesterday I heard a wren singing in the neighbors yard, so I made a point to clean out and hang my two wren houses. Today a male wren started building a nest in one, loudly advertising his endeavors. Such a big voice from such a tiny bird!

Thursday, May 24, 2018


The blossoming continues. Unfortunately, the light is not always ideal and I am not the best photo editor around. So while I am documenting the progression of the flowering, some of the pics are not the most flattering. Not that the plants care.

I keep trying to capture the way the purple-leaf plantings in the front yard enhance the rest. An example is the hawthorn and the 'Crimson King' maple trees.

The hawthorn is peaking blossom-wise.

The 'Wentworth' highbush cranberry is coming on strong.

I love the delicate details of the flowers.

Behind the highbush cranberry is the easy-to-neglect 'Alabama Crimson' honeysuckle vine. It has been blooming for a while. I keep meaning to provide it with a trellis so it can show off more.

Just getting to the honeysuckle is a challenge.

The sad looking shrub on the right is the 'Aphrodite' Rose of Sharon. It is always late to the dance, but is looking particularly peaked this spring. I think I will cut it back severely and see if it recovers. And while it is in a smaller size, maybe I will get that trellis installed for the honeysuckle.

I am not sure if the catmint in the milkweed bed is 'Walkers Low' or 'Six Hills Giant'. If you look closely, you can see a milkweed plant sprouting in the midst of the catmint. By the way, I spotted a monarch today, fluttering around some milkweed on the south side of the house, but alas, it did not land.

I'm glad this catmint is doing so well because the Russian sage planted at the corners of the bed is not.

A few plants of dames rocket spot the yard. This is a non-native invasive that I have mistaken for some kind of phlox in the past. Sometimes there is a lot, sometimes a little. I let it hang around because I like it.

The false indigo gets bigger every year. When I planted it I had no idea just how big it would get. I'm happy with it, though.

There is some volunteer columbine mixed in with it this year.

This poor 'Niobe' clematis keeps trying but has never lived up to its reputation of being 8'-12' tall. It adds another shade of purple to the front yard, though.

Meanwhile, my efforts to get rid of the yucca is turning into a game of whack-a-mole. The roots keep sending up more shoots. I snip them off and they come back. I'm beginning to wonder if a yucca is forever.

My immediate goal (besides moving the giant pile of mulch in the driveway and keeping the lawn mowed) is to get the rest of the transplants into the ground. There are the ones I bought, which are waiting rather patiently. Then there are the ones I grew, which are moving on as best they can despite my starting them too early and transplanting them too late, like these Profusion zinnias.

For the record, three 'Luna Red' hibiscus are in their own raised bed; I started more plants, as I want at least four. Today I planted some zucchini and cucumber in paper cups, to get them off to a good start. Last year's hollyhock did not all come back - it looks like some of them rotted in the ground - so I transplanted some 'Torch' sunflowers into that bed, to keep the survivors company. I've neglected the alyssum I purchased earlier (and it shows), so I've been moving it and some of the Profusion zinnias to containers.

I was wrong about the climbing rose being dead, as it is sending up some new growth from its base; it probably heard me musing about planting a honeysuckle in its place. I whacked back the forsythia again, as it just won't stop growing. I'm beginning to wonder if forsythia is forever, too.

And I have been weeding, weeding, weeding, especially the Canada thistle. How about you?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

View from the living room

This morning, when I opened the living room curtains, lo and behold, the 'Winter King' hawthorn had bloomed in the night. It's not quite at its peak, but rain is forecast for the next several days, so I decided to snap a pic while I could.

Unfortunately, these blossoms, while pretty, are also pretty stinky. Think carrion. That doesn't seem to deter the pollinators. In fact, maybe it attracts them?

I have to admit, I am pleased with how the front yard looks, especially the purple and yellow combo.

Depending on where one stands, the purple accentuates the rest. You'd think I'd planned it. And while they don't show in these pics, there are volunteer columbine almost everywhere.

For the record, today I managed to get more plants into the ground. Twelve butterfly weed went into the milkweed patch, around the edges, where hopefully they will get enough light. I could not figure out why I had extra marigolds until I remembered some were for the zucchini bed, so those are now in. I also transferred the pole beans to the bean bed, leaving the sprouts in their paper cups but ripping the bottom off; my food production is down to asparagus, rhubarb, beans, and zucchini. Despite my attempts to keep my homegrown transplants straight, I mixed up the cosmos and the dyers coreopsis. They each went into a bed today; I'll figure out which is which later.

I am SO glad I invested in a riding mower. Besides helping with the mulch, it makes mowing a LOT less of a chore. That's a real help this time of year, when I am mowing about every four days. It's funny - I don't fertilize my lawn, but it looks greener than the professionally treated lawns on either side of me, primarily because I mow high instead of scalping the grass.

Are you keeping up with yardening this spring?

Friday, May 18, 2018

You gotta be quick

Some flowers, whether on trees, shrubs, or standing on their own, don't last long. It is easy to miss the peak display while waiting for them to peak. Since this spring feels compressed, there is something new almost every day.

I was hoping the chives would bloom along with something else in the same bed, but the daffodils are too early and the daylilies too late. I see these when I look out my kitchen window, and they still cheer me.

Since this is the first year for the Prairie Fire crabapple and it still looks mostly like a stick, I'm not sure how long the blossoms will last. The Perfect Purple crab in the front yard is done, so I'm enjoying these while they last.

Since the prairie smoke are in the bed on the south side of the house, an area I don't visit very often, it is easy to forget them. I would like to line the front of the bed with these, but I'm afraid the more aggressive plants will overwhelm them.

We are still spreading wood chips. I still have gobs of plants to go into the ground. Before I can transplant, though, I have to weed and prep the beds. It looks like the butterfly bush did not survive being moved, but it didn't look all that great to begin with. If it is defunct, I think I will not replace it.

Are you keeping up this spring?