Thursday, May 25, 2017

Looks like lichen

I found this guy hiding under some transplants, on TOP of a table on the deck. I assume he hitched a ride from somewhere else. Sources tell me it is a Cope's or gray tree frog. I tucked him under the arborvitae. Hope he likes it here.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Random acts of gardening

Sometimes I just want a lot of color in my yard, fast. This spring I grabbed some common annuals like geraniums and petunias at the local nursery for the defunct tulip containers. I even bought myself a pot of spill-fill-thrill at Kroger's. And that's okay. Not every plant has to be the latest-and-greatest or native or whatever. There are no gardening rules.

According to my SO, the front yard is now a "riot of color". A neighbor commented that my backyard must be a work of art, presumably based on what he sees out front. HA HA! It's a mess, but it's my mess. My SO did ask the other day if we are ever going to be done buying mulch/compost/potting soil. Um, NO.

One reason the front yard looks so colorful is the volunteer Canadian columbine that keeps popping up all over. It originated from a handful of plants I bought from Spring Hill Nursery oh-so-many years ago, a purchase that keeps on giving. There are fancier columbines, but I'll stick with this old classic.

Canadian columbine

Clematis 'Niobe' is supposed to grow 8'-12' feet tall and bloom all summer, but so far, it is lucky to even be alive. MY goal was for it to climb the front porch trellis, but it and the rabbits have had other plans. Maybe this year I will prevail.

Clematis 'Niobe'

In the backyard, I have been rearranging plants, moving some sad hostas to more shade and a few "ditch" lilies to more sun. Last year we whacked a couple of forsythia shrubs to the ground. They are still growing, but maybe I can keep them under control. The third forsythia received its whacking yesterday, so I finally planted the mountain mint I received at last years Garden Bloggers Fling, kind of behind where the forsythia was.

Catmint 'Six Hills Giant'

The above catmint is meant to fill the area behind a witch hazel, in front of some "ditch" lilies, between the forsythia and some viburnum. The variety is 'Six Hills Giant' and it does get big and wide.

Speaking of big and wide, 'Betty Corning' is again outgrowing its restraints. I need to come up with a better idea for supporting these. The blossom time is just beginning.

Clematis 'Betty Corning'

Another plant in need of proper support is the honeysuckle vine. It is making do with the privacy fence, but I would like to do better. One idea is mounting a trellis on the fence, to give it something to grab onto.

Honeysuckle 'Alabama Crimson'

Some iris came with the house and somehow I have managed not to kill it over the years. There is some in the hosta bed and some near the deck, and neither clump blooms much anymore. I keep saying, Come August, I will thin and transplant it, but August is also very hot and humid. I'm easily discouraged.

Iris of unknown origin (came with the house)

About the time I bought the above mentioned columbine, I also purchased a climbing rose. Over the years, I have often contemplated getting rid of it (and sometimes its thorns seem bent on getting rid of me), and yet it prevails. I think it has finally found its true calling, though.

Climbing rose of some sort

An arch! I have long admired archways in other gardens, but could never figure out how to pull one off in my own yard. Well, maybe I'll just try training this climbing rose to make my archway dream come true.

Incipient archway

It is my understanding that the climbing rose blooms best on horizontal branches. We'll see how that works out.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The fun stuff

I spent a good part of yesterday weeding while waiting on the underground utility guy to show up (he never did). By midafternoon, I was bushed. By evening I could barely move. My gardening muscles have certainly atrophied over the winter. If my SO was not scheduled to come help me today, I might have laid on the couch watching golf with my eyes closed. But he came and we worked. But it was mostly fun stuff.

One task that definitely took two was installing a Coolaroo sun shade over the pergola. But first I tended to the pergola planters: coir liners, potting soil, and Margarita sweet potato plants (Ipomoea batatas). Last year's effort to grow something that would shade the deck was a big FAIL. I think these vines will work better, but we added the sun shade as insurance.

We noticed the difference the sun shade made almost immediately. Purchased at Costco, it's 7'x13' while my pergola is about 10'x10'. The sun shade fits between the main cross pieces, then hangs over one side, the side the sun will be on later this summer. I'm looking forward to enjoying late afternoon iced tea on the "veranda".

Even though the underground utility guy didn't come to mark the electrical and FIOS, the gas guy did show up on Wednesday, so I was able to plant the black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) shrubs I purchased earlier this spring.

I didn't take photos, but I also planted two more rattlesnake masters (Eryngium yuccifolium) in this corner of the yard. If I can ever get the creeping charlie under control, I think this area will be real purty someday.

I also didn't take photos of the madder (Rubia tinctoria) plant (the roots are used for dyeing fiber), nor did I document the removal of the yarrow from the native sampler bed on the south side of the house. My SO took one yarrow clump while I transferred the other to a raised bed where it presumably can't wander hither and yon. I moved what I presume to be a 'Husker Red' Penstemon into one of the yarrow holes.

I thought I had killed off all the Husker Red (by accident) a few years ago, but this one popped up in the sampler bed.

I know I said NO NEW BEDS in my last post, but I don't think this one really counts. Leftover lumber had been piled next to the deck, but that was not stopping the iris from trying to spread. We cleared it out and threw down a couple of delineating timbers. I'm not sure what I will do with this area other than reset some of the iris rhizomes come August. Daylilies? Sunflowers?

Elsewhere around the yard, the trees I planted last year are doing well, the Triumph Elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy') in the back and a hawthorn (Crataegus viridis 'Winter King') in the front.

I forgot that the hawthorn blooms. Pretty, but also pretty stinky. I don't care for the fragrance.

I need to mind the thorns when I mow around it. Yikes!

The tulip tree has been here since 2009 (?). It looks a little sparse in part because I have not yet lopped off the lower branches that the sparrows killed last year by stripping the bark for their nests. Actually, I blame the blue jays because they would wipe their beaks on the limbs, presumably damaging the tender bark. This spring the sparrows tried to pull off more bark but appeared to be unsuccessful. I also took a hiatus on feeding the birds; the jays can get their whole peanuts somewhere else.

Of greater concern is what I think is a weather crack. I first noticed this last summer. I'm hoping it does not prove to be fatal.

I wish I were better able to capture how bright and shiny the barberry is this year, a nice contrast with the gold mop. There used to be a burning bush where the flamingo is, on the left. You can't tell from this photo, but I cut out one of the barberry too. My hope is the gold mop will fill in the spaces.

I wasn't sure how the hostas would survive the fence installation last year, but I lucked out and two of them are on one side and the rest on the other side are just fine. There is a bit of volunteer rudbeckia growing around the 'Love Pat' on the right. The other hosta is a mystery.

I think this hosta is 'Golden Tiara' and I was afraid it was going to peter out a couple of years ago, the victim of home improvement. I shoveled some homemade compost on it a year (or two?) ago and it looks like it is recovering. I like it because of the small leaves.

There is still more planting to do, and some plant moving, which is almost as much fun as planting. Then it is back to the weeding and mulching.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No new beds!

At least, that is what I tell myself when I see a plant I WANT. Today it was Ninebark 'Ginger Wine' at the Home Depot. It needs full sun. The best location for full sun in my front yard is the southeast corner. I've contemplated creating a dogleg bed there. Wouldn't 'Ginger Wine' look nice, with a couple of 'Fire Chief' Globe Arborvitae and a ground cover of some sort? Maybe next year. I need to get the current beds under control.

The best bloomer right now is the blackhaw viburnum, a.k.a. Viburnum prunifolium. It needs a little pruning to get it out of the arborvitae's hair. There are also some interlopers trying to grow right along with it.

We had some frost a few nights ago, so the blossoms don't look so nice anymore. I hope that does not mean no fruit. That would be a repeat of last year.

When the privacy fence was installed last year, I asked the crew if they could raise the garden shed, to help discourage the resident woodchuck. They obliged, but a side affect was difficulty getting the push lawnmower in and out of the shed.

My SO is handy with power tools and there is an odd assortment of pressure treated lumber from various other projects, so he whipped together this ramp. As Red Green says, " If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." (My SO is handsome, too!)

The rain has abated for a few days, the gas lines were marked yesterday, and the other utilities will be marked tomorrow. THEN I will be able to plant the shrubs I purchased in April. Only gardeners get excited about digging holes.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

What is that bright thing up in the sky?

Last Friday was a dry day, so much mowing and trimming ensued (plus a little pruning). This past Wednesday was also fit for non-ducks, so I did some weeding and mulching. Otherwise, it's been gray leaky skies, day after day, until today. Clear skies are going to result in frosty nights, though.

Since things were still rather soggy in the yard, I felt justified in spending part of the day attending the Rural Artist Studio Tour. I didn't purchase any art, but ironically I did come home with some plants. One stop was at the Beside Still Waters Greenhouse where I snatched up a tray of Sweet Alyssum (no plant tag, so the variety will remain a mystery), to use in the tulip containers. Then after the last stop of the tour, we were just down the road from Riverview Nursery, so I picked up a couple of Rattlesnake Master plants.

Then it was home to mow and trim. I don't know if I am a good example or a bad one when it comes to lawn care. The perfect turf of some of my neighbors looks lovely to this child of the suburbs, but what I would really like is a lawn mixed with low-growing flowers. I try to spot-treat the dandelions to keep them under control, but otherwise let the clover and violets and wild strawberry have their way.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Not much to see yet

The weather continues to confound. Some days I am in hurry-up mode, other days it feels too early to get excited about gardening. I finally started some seedlings inside (late) while we (my SO and I) continue to plod along outside.

As stated earlier, one thing I wanted to do this year is show the progression of changes of the raised bed portion of the yard. I added a reminder to my calendar to take pix every month. Last month's are here. Below are this month's.

Looking SW

Looking NW

Looking NE

Looking SE

Orchard - looking SW

So far, the biggest changes involve moving concrete blocks. The old strawberry bed has been dismantled and those blocks doubled the height of the asparagus bed. The blocks for a smaller bed that last year hosted tomato plants is now the second story of a bed in the orchard where I plan to plant madder.

The redbud trees are still going strong, but other denizens of the yard are coming on. The rusty heron still protects the rhubarb patch. While cleaning out a cupboard, I found several jars of too-old-to-eat vanilla bean rhubarb jam. I may have to repeat that recipe, but share the results in a more timely manner (I can eat only so much of the stuff). There will be the annual May birthday rhubarb pies. AND I plan to mordant wool yarn with the rhubarb leaves. Fun stuff!

This Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart is not only big and beautiful, volunteers are starting to pop up here and there around the yard.

This northside bed fills up with hostas, coral bells, iris, and rudbeckia. Somewhere along the line, the landscape timbers got relocated. I need to figure out a way to redefine the edge, to keep the grass out.

After giving the 'Limelight' hydrangea a severe pruning, I was a bit nervous about its survival. It is starting to leaf out, though, so now I am more excited than nervous, to see how it turns out.

The 'Betty Corning' clematis continues to be a problem of excess. This year we are trying an open-ended approach to the trellis, hoping the prevailing winds from the NW keep it somewhat corralled, at least better than previous years.

With the removal of the picket fence around the raised beds and a judicious pruning of the nearby redbud tree, the view from the deck has opened up quite a lot. I didn't want to prune the redbuds yet, but yesterday was take-crap-to-the-compost-site day. Rather than start a new pile of trimmings so early, I whacked a few limbs here and there, despite the trees still being in their glory.

2016 view from the deck

2017 view from the deck

Otherwise, there has been much weeding going on, in an effort to uncover lost plants. Most of the time I mark their location in one manner or another, which is extremely helpful when it is difficult to tell the newly emerging plant from the weeds. There are still a few rabbits around, eager to wreak havoc, but I have not seen the local woodchuck, at least not in my yard, this year. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Still spring

The temperatures have cooled a bit, which is a plus for the spring bloomers. My SO and I and Watson (the dog) went for a wildflower walk at Bicentennial Woods a couple of weeks ago. No pics but we (the dog and/or I) did bring home a couple of ticks. Ugh. Last Thursday we stopped at Foster Park between rain showers, to view the tulips. Again, no pics, except for this redbud tree.

I wish I knew the history of this old thing. I've seen redbuds with thick trunks, but nothing like this convoluted writhing mass of limbs. I'm surprised the uniqueness was not pruned out of it a long time ago.

On the home front, my SO and I spent hours in the backyard yesterday, trying to get things under control. He does the heavy lifting, literally. I keep reconfiguring the raised beds - this time, doubling the height of the concrete block ones - which I would not be able to manage on my own. He also cut down the 'Wichita Blue' junipers, two of which turned incredibly ugly, two of which never grew larger. I joke that he makes my gardening dreams come true, which really is not a joke at all. His help keeps me from succumbing to gardener's despair.

We both tackled weeds, weeds, and more weeds, mostly this creeping crud that is able to leap raised beds in a single bound and spread across the top of mulch, rooting all the way. I don't like to use herbicides, but am wondering if spraying along the fence will send the poison spreading through this carpet of crap like a computer virus through a LAN. It would be an interesting experiment. (Oh, wait. I just looked up some info on ground ivy, a.k.a. creeping Charlie. It says it is not affected by broadleaf herbicides except dicamba. Hmmm.)

Inside, I have been starting seeds, better late than never. At least I'm late enough that many can spend time outside almost immediately. Less mess in the house.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April is busting out all over

This has been a great spring for early blooming shrubs and trees (with a few exceptions like forsythia and magnolias). I confess the redbuds are my favorite anyway. So pink!

And it is not just in my yard but it's everywhere, even along the edges of woodlands. Which brings up a question I have: ornamental pears have proven to be invasive, which is bad of course, but no one complains about volunteer redbuds, perhaps because they are native?

My fruit trees are not that old, but are making a great effort this year. Top photo is apple blossoms, bottom is cherry.

The serviceberry is already past its prime, but the sand cherry out front surprised me this morning. I hope the neighbor across the street comments on it so I can remind him that there used to be two in his yard. I missed them, so I planted my own.

My experiment of tulips in containers has not been very successful, or at least not what I envisioned. The bulbs were free, and maybe the species is not the best for container growing. Or maybe it was the weather or something about my technique. The colors are gorgeous, but the stems are short. It looks like many will not bloom at all. I can't even blame this failure on rabbits.

I have to admit I am not taken with the fact these particular tulips will not bloom again. For all the effort involved with fall bulbs, I would rather plant something that comes back year after year. I wonder how perennial tulips would perform in containers?