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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Now you sedum

I divided and moved some of the 'Autumn Joy' sedum earlier this summer, and am pleased with how well it is doing. So pleased that I am going to move it again next summer.

The plants I moved get more sun. Also, I learned I can control their height by pinching them back. So now I am envisioning a cascade of 'Autumn Joy' from the top tier, over the castle block, to the bottom, where it will flow like a river of sedum across and down the bed by the front sidewalk.

There is a white version of the same type of sedum that will be integrated somehow, plus the low growing sedums that creep along the ground.

I will also divide and move 'Zagreb', the last of the coreopsis, to sunnier locales, and will probably suppress the calendula that is establishing itself in this bed. Instead, I want all sedum, all the time. At least, that is the plan for now.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Please fence me in

Having been on a couple of garden tours in recent years, I was struck by how well a privacy fence can visually enclose space and provide a neutral background to whatever is planted in front of it. My yard is large and flat and exposed. The idea of wrapping a privacy fence around it really appealed to me.

Also, my solitary nature causes me to favor privacy as a general policy. While my neighbors are imperfectly nice people, I would prefer to hang out in my backyard without necessarily interacting with them or their children or their dogs. The installation of an above ground pool on one side and the new neighbor's yappy rat terriers on the other only added to my resolve.

North side of garage (hosta bed)

Of course, when I approached the neighbors about installing a fence, I used the factors in paragraph one above, then added how *they* would benefit from the fence ("more privacy for your pool guests" for the neighbors to the north and "make your house more sellable" for the previous neighbors to the south). I also spoke with the neighbor behind me, in case they were interested in removing the privet hedge between our lots (he is but his wife is not). At any rate, no one objected. Not that that would have stopped me.

South side of house (prairie sampler)

I thought about putting all the vertical boards facing out, but changed my mind when I learned the rat terriers are cat-hating canines. I'm not sure if Finn can get over the fence but if outside the yard, he may need to insert a clawhold into the horizontal runners to get back in. And since it is *my* fence, I chose to look at the aesthetically more pleasing side. (The only exceptions are the gates facing the street.) Another good decision was to move the gates from the back of the house to the front; to the south, the fence may help dampen the rattle of that neighbor's heat pump. I also like how it opens up the accesses to the backyard.

No more pool!

The fence was finished by noon today and I am *loving* it. It *does* visually enclose the backyard and it *does* block the view into my neighbors' yards. My yard feels more cozy, too.

No more yappy dogs!

I elected to use pressure treated pine since cedar would have doubled the price. Right now the boards have a greenish tint to them, which will fade to a rosy tan, then in several years the fence will turn weathered gray. I thought about having it stained, but from eyeballing others' fences, the stain obviously needs to be renewed periodically. With all my shrubs and perennials, current and future, that would be a problem.

There are a few candidates waiting on the deck for fall planting. But first, since I told the installers to make the fence even at the top, there is much unevenness at the bottom to contend with. The gaps are large enough that I want to wrap the bottom of the fence in an "L" of hardware cloth, then pile on wood chips.

I cant' believe how excited I am about this new improvement!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

No frost yet, maybe tonight

I'm sure I am repeating myself, but if I could plant just one flower, it would be zinnias. They bloom and bloom and bloom, and this time of year, they are the nectar plant of choice for butterflies, or so it seems. If I want to see a monarch, I just look to the zinnias.

(Although there are no butterflies in these pics.)

Every time I look at the garden, I want to take more photos of the zinnias, especially of the red ones and the orange ones.

And the Mexican sunflowers.

What's your favorite flower?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Got floppy grass?

The other day, my SO and I visited Metea County Park to look for fungi. While exiting the nature center, I noticed that the grasses along the sidewalk had been tied up in neat little sheaves. How cute, I thought, but necessary? Then I realized that they had solved the problem of floppy ornamental grass!!!

Do your switchgrass and northern oats flop like this, threatening those approaching your front door?

And does your pampas grass sprawl, poking the resident lawn mowing son in the eye as he rounds the corner?

Well, grab some twine or yarn or, if you are really crafty, long dried blades of grass, and round 'em up. Tie the sheaves with a little bow and it looks quite festive. If the grass continues to flop, tether the sheaves to a pole sunk in the center of the clump.

Even the pampas grass can be brought to attention without looking too unnatural.

What do you think? Will this solution work for you? Try it and see if you like it.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Purple asters big and small-ish

Last fall I planted a prairie sampler on the south side of the house. Amazingly, I have lost very few of those tiny starts (which are still in the "creep" phase). I also transplanted some established plants into that bed, to round it out and fill a few empty spaces.

The shorter New England asters are 'Purple Dome', but I have no idea what the big and tall one is. At one point, I thought the pollinators were favoring the big one over its little cousins, but today I observed the bees were searching out flowers with still-fresh yellow centers. Apparently, the blossoms on the tall one peaked earlier than on the short ones.

I'm contemplating rearranging all these asters into one big showy clump, the tall one in the back and center, surrounded by the shorter ones. I'm hoping my pink 'Wild Romance' aster crops up somewhere, as it would add a nice splash to such an arrangement. I'm not sure what happened to it, but I suspect wascally wabbits are involved.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another quandary

At the banquet for the Garden Bloggers Fling, the centerpiece at each table was an Encore Azalea plant. I like azaleas as much as the next person, but they don't grow in my zone. Nobody at my table wanted it, even the person who "won" it, as they had flights to catch and preferred to do so sans horticulture, especially those from Toronto (pesky customs!) So I adopted it on the spot.

Did I mention that azaleas don't grow in my zone?

This one is called Autumn Amethyst. Its coldest zone is 6A. I am in zone 5B. No, wait, according to the government, I am now in zone 6A, but just barely. According to the Encore Azalea website, this azalea *should* grow here (with some winter protection). Huh.

My original plan was to keep this baby in a pot and tuck it away in the garage for the winter. Now I'm not so sure that is a good idea. If I were to plant it in the ground, where would it go? It needs 6 hours of sunshine, preferably in the morning, until around 2pm, then light shade. That spells "front yard" or way in the back of the backyard, in my yard. It also can grow to be 4'x4'. That is kind of big, so I can't just tuck it in somewhere.

This I will have to ponder.