Monday, January 01, 2018

New year musings

Needless to say, no gardening is going on, especially during this below-normal winter. The seed catalogs have started to pour in, though, so spring hopes eternal.

I do get outside every day, to at least walk the dogs, lately to keep up with the snow. While shoveling the walk, I contemplate what to do with this, that, or the other bed or plant. Right now I think I will move the sedums, coreopsis, Stella d'Oro daylilies, dwarf fountain grass to around the trees and shrubs in the front yard, yellow things under the purple ones, purple things under the yellow ones. The northern sea oats could go on the south side of the house, where the eaves are a bit deep for true sun-lovers, and the switchgrass can be moved to full sun (front? back?) where it might just remain upright.

I'm leaning toward planting 'Clara Curtis' painted daisies under the purple smoke bush where nothing else seems to thrive. I used to have a lot of Clara but somewhere along the way, it pooped out, probably because I kept moving it. And I'm thinking of dwarf yellow zinnias for the bed by the front walk. The yucca needs to be tamed.

First priority for the backyard is a strategy to help it recover from the dogs. Actually, it is not Watson but Clio and her big feet that are the problem. We have a couple of dog parks here in town, so I may get passes and take them there to get the zooms out. Meanwhile, movable electric fencing in the backyard will be employed to keep them contained while the beds on the north and south sides of the house recover.

There are a few more dye plants I want to raise: indigo, dyers coreopsis, bedstraw, yellow cosmos, hibiscus. I'm going to try starting 'Luna Red' hibiscus again, getting the seeds from a different source. A second bed of hollyhock will also get started, as it is a biennial.

My efforts to provide shade for the AC unit have not panned out yet, so this year I will try planting a Prairie Fire flowering crab nearby. I am enamored with paperbark maple, a slow grower that will provide year-round interest. I also would not mind having a ninebark... along with a hundred other plants.

Then everywhere else I plan to plant plugs of coneflower and rudbekia, plus giant zinnias. And maybe some compass plant in this corner, cup plant in that corner. And Mexican sunflower.

What are your garden pipe dreams this winter?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Grasses and mostly bad news

I recently learned Chinese silver grass is deemed invasive. I have not noticed it growing beyond its bounds locally - and there is a LOT of it in local landscaping - but that doesn't mean it isn't or won't be a problem.

Intellectually, I am against installing invasive plants in one's yard. BUT I can't help but wonder if my acting ethically makes much difference. This is me making excuses for keeping my silver grass. Any opinions out there?

I did remove my burning bush (or at least, I am still battling it - it's difficult to eliminate). Again, it is a very popular landscape option in theses parts AND I have not noticed it growing in undeveloped lots (unlike ornamental pear). I had an ulterior motive for removing the burning bush, though, as it was crowding the gold mop.

Now that the burning bush is (mostly) gone, the gold mop is beginning to fill out on the south side. If I at least prune back the barberry (ANOTHER INVASIVE) on the east side, the gold mop will be restored to all its glory.

And now I am wondering if dwarf fountain grass, specifically 'Hameln', is invasive. For years, my three plants behaved well. But now they are spreading all over the place. I would like to move it from its current location - it's crowding the cotoneaster - to a stone-mulched bed along one side of the driveway. Worth the effort? I don't know.

And then there are native grasses that are problematic. The northern sea oats spread very easily, and the switch grass flops. The latter problem is of my own making, as there is not enough sunshine in this location by the front porch.

In a sunnier location, the switch grass could look like this grouping at a local city park:

So far, I have not heard anything about hardy pampas grass being invasive. It also tolerates shade fairly well, although it too could probably use more light.

Meanwhile, prairie dropseed is spectacular in its un-spectacular-ness. Is this normal?

The final bad news is that my minimalist approach to dog fencing is not working out. Clio, a.k.a. Big Foot, is not about to be stopped by short ornamental fencing. I obviously need to come up with a better plan.

I'm thinking electric fencing, at least for a while.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Feels like spring

Sunshine, temperatures in the 50's, sun low in the sky. It could be March or April instead of November. The first seed catalog arrived before Thanksgiving, which of course has me thinking about next year's yard and garden. But instead of just thinking, today I was doing.

Since I adopted Clio from the Fort Wayne Pitbull Coalition, my backyard is a mess. She and Watson zoom around, and Clio's big feet churn up the sod. Recent rains have not helped.

Then there is the digging. The two of them actually caught a mole. I didn't know there were moles around here. Voles, yes, moles, no.

So now I am puzzling over how best to rescue the yard. To protect the non-raised beds, fencing of some sort seems to be in order, but I don't want to obscure the plantings. There's "invisible fencing" and electric fencing, but I have not had much luck with those in the past because eventually they stop working and figuring out where the problem is is a hassle.

The dogs are pretty well behaved if I am out in the yard, so I'm hoping if I provide a barrier that is more visible, I can teach them to not cross into the beds. Toward that end, today I edged the hosta bed and erected a short white wire fence, stabilized with not-as-short white pickets. I may add some fluttery tape, the better to see the boundary.

The grass will have to wait until spring to be rejuvenated. Maybe overseeding with a tougher variety will help. I am also contemplating stepping stones of some sort on the north and south sides of the house, so at least I have somewhere to walk above the mud.

And I am open to suggestions. Anyone?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A few bulbs and corms

The light says autumn but the weather says summer, albeit a nice comfortable one. We still have not had a frost of any kind, let alone a killing one that transitions the garden to DONE. Most years we even have a little snow by now, but it has also been a bit dry. I am still mowing weekly.

I'm not a big fall bulb planter, partially because rabbits eat the crocus and tulip blossoms. Daffodils they leave alone, and hyacinth, grape and otherwise. Still, I decided to take a chance on some pink snow crocus (Crocus tommassinianus 'Roseus') and early snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii). These can be planted in the lawn, but since I have this perpetual internal battle over whether to treat the lawn or not, I deposited them along the border of edged circles that surround the Golden Spririt smokebush, the flowering crab, and the hawthorn tree. If they multiply and creep into the lawn, that is okay by me.

The trees have not turned, the leaves have not dropped, the zinnias continue to bloom along with the dahlia, which really picked up the pace. I debated over whether to try some fall transplanting, and today moved one Stella d'Oro daylily to front the flowering crab. Otherwise, I think I'll wait until spring.

How is autumn progressing in your neck of the woods? I'm guessing S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (no pics)

Last Thursday my SO and I took a day trip to Grand Rapids, MI, to see at least part of ArtPrize 2017. Since the temperatures were predicted to be above 90 degrees, we wisely limited ourselves to two venues (out of 182!), the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. In the latter, we further limited ourselves to the art (which gratefully was inside), the Japanese garden, and the sculpture garden.

After attending the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling, I wrote a post on the definition of a Japanese garden. Of course, this one had all the elements. While circumnavigating the pond, we felt the garden was not very large, but once we climbed to a high spot, we saw we were wrong. My favorite part was the Zen dry rock garden - boulders surrounded by raked gravel. A docent explained that they used gravel instead of sand so that the form would withstand heavy rains. The raking pattern resembles a pond, which is calming, as opposed to something like a river.

The sculpture collection at the garden is inside and out. Some of the outdoor ones are HUGE. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the battery on my SO's camera died shortly after we started into the outdoor garden. I took advantage of that occurrence to cut the garden tour short because, OMG, the HEAT!

One jarring note to the gardens was the apparent naming rights that abound. There's the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, the DeVos Keeler Gift Shop, etc. It made me think I have been taking the wrong approach to funding my gardening efforts. If I could get my (not-so-wealthy) friends and relatives to cough up some bucks, I would happily slap their names on sections of my yard. What do you think?

The Patrick J. McDonnell Silvergrass Island

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I can't keep up

It has been almost a month since I last posted. Not a lot worth noting happens in the yard in August - bean picking, a bit of watering, mowing - but by September things are starting to fade, including me. Already I can feel myself shifting to indoor hobbies.

The rudbeckia is just about finished for the season.

The heads on the hydrangea are so HUGE this year, they droop.


The Rose of Sharon is the last to bloom in the spring and one of the last to stop in the fall.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite'

I was afraid I had inadvertently pulled up all the volunteer goldenrod, but some persists.

The marigolds are putting on a late show.

Zinnias are one flower you can depend on, all summer long.

'Red Scarlet'

The sunflowers are at various stages, from bloom to droop.

Despite the dogs rampaging through the south bed, some asters are still standing.

This sweet alyssum made a late showing, to provide a lovely contrast to the coleus.

Sedum is another dependable provider of fall color.

'Autumn Joy'

I added some anonymous hardy mums to the big pots. If I had realized how low they would sit, I would have left them in their pots.

The dahlias, planted as a source of dye, continue to pop out one or two blossoms at a time.

'Black Satin'

It's almost time for fall cleanup. It's also almost time for a post mortem, to rehash what went right and what went wrong this year. I'll wait a few months before starting to plan for next year, as that's a good mid-winter project.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guessing game

Now that I have a dog, I am taking better advantage of the walking opportunities in this community, specifically the Rivergreenway and other local trails. I'm pleased to note that a variety of native plants are taking up residence along these urban pathways. Some are easier to identify than others, though.

Butterflyweed, obviously.

And ironweed.

I had to look this one up, even though I should know it: Culver's root.

I thought this was bindweed, but the heart-shaped leaves are telling me wild potato-vine.

Sunflowers and sunflowerlike flowers are often difficult to identify, but not this one.

It's leaves scream, Cup-plant!

This one I'm not sure about.

The leaves are not helping me, either. Guesses?

I feel like I should know this one. Stinging nettle maybe?

The fruit on this shrub remind me of my highbush cranberry, but not the leaves. Mine is a 'Wentworth'. Anyone? Anyone?

I'm also pleased to see so many local gardens sporting so-called wild flowers, especially coneflower and black-eyed Susan. The word is out!