Monday, January 02, 2017

Winter clean up

With our weird weather, there were some tasks I usually accomplish in the fall that I just now completed - cutting back the clematis and asparagus. It took a polar vortex to push those plants to complete dormancy. While I was at it, I also cut back the ornamental grasses, as they had been smooshed by heavy snow that was topped with an icing of freezing rain. While I was in the vicinity, I also whacked the 'Autumn Joy' sedum.

I never did get the azalea wrapped in burlap, but apparently the snow protected it from the bitter cold, as it looks pretty good. Fingers crossed. Similarly, the lawn was protected and is rather green. At least the grass is not actively growing.

The ground is not frozen, either. Of course, we still have a couple months of winter to face. Hopefully, it won't be a nuclear winter.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just in the nick of time

Today it is snowing. Depending on which weather forecast one listens to, we are expecting 4"-8" inches OR it is the end of civilization as we know it. At any rate, it is a good day to stay inside close to one's computer.

Yesterday, I performed what I consider the final fall cleanup. The dead plants are (mostly) still standing, but I rounded up the few that winter over in the garage. Also, the garden carts and wagons and sit-upons are now in the shed, sheltered from the winter weather. The hoses are disconnected from the faucets, but alas, too stiff to roll up, so they will just have to remain in situ for the time being.

There are a few tasks I never got to, but one I *must* do before the arctic winds descend this week: protect the azalea bush. It is already surrounded by poultry netting, but I want to add some burlap to that. While this particular type of azalea is supposed to grow in my zone, I don't really trust that information.

Monday, November 14, 2016


I grow vegetables in raised beds because I grew tired of fighting my heavy clay soil. One aspect of raised beds is they can be moved. Some may consider this an asset while others would disagree. In general, I haven't moved them... much. But this year I decided to reduce the footprint of the vegetable garden. One way to do that was to butt the beds up against each other instead of maintaining a path all around each one.

Before (pic from last year)

While my SO helped me rearrange the beds, I joked that this was the LAST TIME we would do this. Well, ha-ha. A few days later, I decided the new configuration needed some tweaking. We are relocating the gate into the garden as well. The reduction in paths would mean that after entering the garden through the gate, one would have to walk all the way to the end of the beds to get across the garden, a real pain if one were, say, pushing a wheel barrow full of manure.


I wasn't sure how my SO would greet the idea of moving beds *again*. Fortunately, my son was willing to open up a path in the offset middle. Now gardener and accouterments can take a short cut to the back.

Wide path installed

Even this big boy, a gift from my SO, will fit.

A side note: While moving the beds, we discovered that even though they are made from cedar, the beds are starting to rot where they are in contact with the ground. Very disappointing.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

One down

A while ago I learned that burning bush is invasive. I have a burning bush, but had never noticed any seedlings sprouting nearby, so I thought, Pfft! Well, my neighbors have an ornamental pear, they are considered invasive but I've never seen any pear seedlings, and yet the wooded empty lots in the area are FULL of volunteer ornamental pear. They may be full of burning bush as well.

Before (with gold mop trying to grow around it)

So every time I looked at the burning bush, I thought, That has to go... sometime. This year, it's time has come. The invasive issue is just a smoke screen, though. The real reason I want to get rid of it is it crowds the Chamaecyparis 'Gold Mop' growing next to it. I love my gold mop, but its beautiful shape is marred. I'm hoping that with more exposure, the asymmetrical growth will even out.

After, unexposed foliage is green instead of gold

Now I am eyeing the Barberry 'Crimson Pygmy' that also grows in that bed, is also reported to be invasive, and is also crowding the gold mop a bit. Just this year I added Creeping Broad-leaved Sedge 'Banana Boat' for contrast. *sigh* Sometimes it hurts to be environmentally conscious.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

We all fall down

The leaves have been changing at such an erratic pace this year that it has been difficult to capture a shrub or tree at its peak. I don't have much flashy fall foliage, but I do appreciate the more subtle colors of autumn like yellow and cinnamon and blush.

Redbud tree leaves

Tulip tree leaves

Rhubarb leaves

The tomato and pepper plants have been pulled, but there are still a few flowers valiantly trying to hold on.


Mexican sunflower


The zinnias, while fading, are still interesting to look at, but not for long. The forecast calls for frosty weather. When I have trouble sleeping at night, I picture cross country skiing in snowy woodlands. Hopefully, that dream will come true this winter.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pigs will fly

When the Cubs won the World Series, I had a premonition about the election. Sadly, my fears came true. I don't remember ever bursting into tears over election results before. My one consolation is voter turnout was low, so we are not so much a nation full of hate but one of apathy and/or frustration. Let's hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

To distract ourselves last Tuesday, my SO and I took a road trip to the Toledo area. At the recommendation of a friend, we stopped at Grand Rapids OH along the way. Despite the Trump signs, we enjoyed our visit there. We ate pie at Miss Lily's Restaurant, made some fiber and decor purchases at the Natural Fiber and Yarn Co., and strolled along the Maumee River.

There we found a small but interesting river/water theme garden. Besides the fish planters and red hand pump, a spigot serves as a perch for the birdhouse on the left. (I assume any avian residents of that house are sparrows. Tired of housing sparrows, I donated my bluebird boxes to a local nature preserve group - maybe they will have better luck attracting bluebirds than I did.)

These red, white, and blue samples of garden art caught my eye, as they look like alliums.

Closer inspection revealed that they are made of balled up CHICKEN WIRE mounted on plastic covered rebar! I've been wanting to add a splash of color to my hosta bed, and these may be just the ticket. Even with my limited skills set, I should be able to wad up poultry netting and spray paint it.

My SO identified the gingko trees that line the main drag of Grand Rapids. I know a few things about gingkos - they adapt well to urban environments but the fruit produced by female plants is stinky. I did not know that they are so pretty in fall, tolerate clay soil and some shade, and are known as "living fossils".

I would consider them for my yard, but they are not native and appear to provide no habitat for wildlife here in the states.

I can still enjoy them elsewhere.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Is this Indian summer?

The weather continues to confound. We still have not had a killing frost, or any frost for that matter. I think of Indian summer as the time after a killing frost but before temps stay frosty in preparation for winter. I think of Indian summer as days that are sunny but crisp, breezy enough to bring down the leaves, a delight. Today was pretty delightful but not quite what I would call Indian summer because everything is still so *green*.

My SO and I continue to work on the fence, stapling hardware cloth around the bottom. Hopefully, this will keep most critters out (still need to figure out something for the gates) and maybe even keep my indoor/outdoor cat from wandering. I have yet to witness him scaling the wall, but if he is getting out, he is also getting back in.

I have been covering the hardware cloth with some mulch. I am not a fan of the mulch available around here, all of it dyed. How weird. This is "rustic" pine bark, purchased by the bag at Lowes.

On a separate topic, I received 101 free tulip bulbs from Colorblends, a sponsor of the Garden Bloggers Fling. I'm not much for tulips because of my awful clay soil and equally awful critters that chomp the blossoms, so I almost did not send for mine. But through the magic of the Internet, I have learned they can be grown in containers. I decided to give that a try, relying on instructions found here. If this experiment works out, I may invest in more attractive containers.

My son and I helped plant trees at a nearby city park yesterday. As a reward, we were offered a Blue Spruce seedling. I was tempted to to take one (FREE TREE!) but where would I put it? Also, there are plenty of Blue Spruce in my neighborhood, even next door. I think I will save my yard for something less common but native.