Friday, May 30, 2008

Just So I Will Know Next Year

When most perennials and shrubs are bursting with life in the spring, there are always a worrisome few that are late to get started. I'm not talking about late bloomers. I'm talking late-to-show-any-signs-of-life-after-a-long-cold-winter. So here is proof that some of those ten o'clock flowers are still alive.

It is difficult to see in this shot, but the hibiscus survived.

It's surrounded by the Queen Anne's lace I let into the garden last year. (Big mistake.)

And the trumpet vine.

I planted this four years ago and it has yet to bloom. I think it doesn't get enough sun, but now that the silver maples are gone, maybe that will change.

In the foreground is the Rose of Sharon.

A neighbor a couple of blocks away has a larger specimen, and it is just as late as mine.

Now, onto the current bloomers.

Not a good shot, but this is thyme that is planted in the pot with a miniature apple tree.

It is just starting to bloom. We moved the apple trees to the north side of the backyard, so that they will be close to the other potted plants, just to make watering easier.

This is not a good shot, either, but it is yarrow that is starting to bloom.

I hope its neighboring bee balm holds off until I can get it moved. Tonight I pulled "weeds" where I want the bee balm to go, so maybe tomorrow I will move it. I read that bee balm is relatively shade tolerant, so it is going next to the fence and hopefully will block some of the invading catnip and nettles.

I have two peonies of one variety and one of another, so while the former are past their glory, the latter is just coming on.

This one is also more white than pink.

Some blossoms are easy to miss. These are on my asplenifolia.

They will turn into little orange berries that the sparrows love.

And the burning bush blooms as well.

I can't recall if there is resulting fruit. Probably. Mother Nature would not waste a perfectly good flower, would she?

Well, maybe she would, if it is true that the white onondaga blooms are sterile.

These photos show better the different stages of the blooms, from closed red to open pink to white border.

This is the best year ever for the onandago.

And for the "Blue Muffin" arrowwood viburnum as well.

This will be the first year I will get to see the blue muffin effect that earns this shrub its name. (Knock on wood!)

Now, what is this nestled amongst the bee balm?

Might be Keys of Heaven. I planted some but I don't think I have ever seen it bloom. I'll have to try not to disturb it when I move the bee balm.

And the columbine is still with us.

Tonight the weather is threatening. We really need a good soaking rain. Maybe if I wash my car....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Onondaga Question

There is a wealth of information on the Internet, but I can't seem to find much about the blossoms on my Onandaga viburnum.

From their appearance, I thought the inner blossoms were male (look at those stamens!) while the outer flowers were female, but then I read that the inner blossoms become the berries while the outer flowers are sterile.

So, are the outer flowers to lure pollinators? To provide a landing platform for butterflies? Or to protect the productive blossoms? Any theories out there?

Monday, May 26, 2008


Since I did not photograph them, I forgot to mention the tomatoes I planted yesterday.

Several years ago, I tried an experiment with miniature trees. Having started with six, I am now down to three, and the three remaining pots received asters last fall (which have resurrected themselves this spring) and tomato plants.

Sweet Olive - a grape tomato hybrid that is supposed to be both prolific and tasty. (I care more about the latter than the former.)

Health Kick - a plum-shaped tomato that is supposed to have 50% more antioxidants than most tomatoes. Can you spell lycopene?

Patio - bred for container gardens, producing 2" round fruit.

Three tomato plants, three shapes, three sizes. Hopefully, they all will be delicious.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A New Love

My yard now has two trees. This is my new laceleaf Japanese maple. It is not the smallest size available, but almost. Anything bigger froze my plastic-wielding hand. Trees are expensive!

My dad clued me in on how to successfully grow these: water. Lots and lots of water. He leaves his hose dripping on his 24/7. I'm not going to go that far, but I will definitely put it on a daily watering schedule.

I have not had much luck with coreopsis on the east side of the house, but that doesn't mean I can't try again.

This is 'Jethro Tull" which I believe is supposed to be more winter hardy. It too went into the ground today.

I also moved some bee balm this afternoon. (My lower back is not happy.) The bee balm grew so tall last year that it blocked my view of the pestemon, but I did not move all of it. For one thing, I want to see if it survives my clumsy relocation efforts. For another, the new site may be too shady.

While poking about in the back garden, I realized the English bluebells had appeared.

They are easy to miss, especially since I made the mistake of letting Queen Anne's lace get established back there.

The north side of the house is Hosta City.

These guys all love their compost.

This particular bed is becoming full: hostas (with two flowering times), coral bells, bleeding heart, spring phlox, leftover iris that I keep promising to move, volunteer violets, a few struggling lily of the valley.

The south side is all pink and white right now, with white iris and pink peony.

The climbing rose is getting ready to add a little red to the mix.

This poor plant looks half-dead half the time, but when it blooms, it is gorgeous. Hope this is one of the gorgeous years.

I also mowed front and back, even though (once again) it was not really necessary. My neighbors had both mowed, though, which made my lawn look like the scraggly one. Tomorrow we may get thunderstorms. I hope so - we need the rain.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I (heart) Compost

Earlier this spring, I spread a little love around my yard in the form of compost. The shrubs and perenniels are responding favorably. Compost is such a gentle but potent way to feed the soil which feeds the plants.

Another photo of the onondaga viburnum...

... which doesn't do justice to the contrasting colors of the unopened buds and the creamy flowers.

The chives are almost the same shade of lavendar...

... as the spring phlox that reappear in my yard each year.

There are a lot of mushrooms as well.

I presume the spores piggy back on the mulch.

And I presume these are not edible.

The cotoneaster is recovering from the whacking I gave it earlier this spring.

It is just starting to bloom, as are the columbine...

... and the peony.

The iris is in full swing.

No, this is not poison ivy, but virginia creeper. It got a foothold several years ago and I just let it go, to see what would happen.

Unfortunately, what is going to happen is that it will get whacked when the Florida room is replaced. Not to worry, though, as there is more growing in the back garden.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring Is Sprung

The nights are still a bit cool for setting out tomatoes, but we are definitely enjoying some springlike weather.

Now, where was I before Blogger started misbehaving and would not upload photos?

Here is my nascent woodpile, what the tree service left behind for me. I don't use my fireplace very often, so this should last me a while. Last winter, a co-worker gave me some of his wood, since he had been removing dead trees from his property, and I have since added the last of that to this pile.

My yard usually sports a brush pile of some sort, and here is this year's. Technically, residents of our fair city are not supposed to have brush piles, but no one has complained to Neighborhood Code Enforcement... yet. The brush pile also provides fuel for my fire bowl, for when we get a hankerin' for roasting hot dogs. This pile is now a bit bigger, because my son trimmed back the privat that runs along the back of my lot so I can mow behind the fence.

Speaking of the mower, it's self-propelled and last Friday, it stopped self propelling. I took it to a new lawn equipment place that is relatively close to my house, but they have not yet called me about it. The claim ticket does not have their name or phone number on it, and they are so new, they are not in the phone book and I can't remember the name to look it up online. This morning I will be driving by, on my way to the dentist, so I will have to take a gander and at least get the name of the place. In fact, I may just stop by.

These blossoms are on the chokeberry viburnum, the poor thing. Its first winter in my yard, it got chewed up something fierce, so I put chicken wire around it. Something - a chipmunk? a groundhog? - still keeps pruning it. Now that it is blossoming, it seems to be safe, but once the berries set, watch out! I planted it for the wildlife, but they are supposed to take the berries, not whole branches.

This is viburnum sargenti, aka onondaga sargent viburnum. It, like several of my shrubs, is a little scrawny, thanks to rabbits and the dry weather we have experienced two out of the three summers since I planted them. I think it could use more sun, too.

And, finally, the bleeding heart continues to amaze. I wish these bloomed all summer long. I am enchanted by the lovely shape of the flowers.

I'm still not caught up with this blog, but today's entry is a start. This is the best way I know to keep a gardening diary, but ya gotta write stuff down on a regular basis. More later.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Blogger is still not happy about uploading pictures, but I experienced some success.

Yesterday we received about 0.75" of rain, which I determined with my new rain gauge. I tripped over and stepped on my previous rain gauge last summer, so I treated myself to a new one, from Lee Valley.

In the background is my rhubarb "patch" which is soon to achieve its genetic destiny by becoming a main ingredient in birthday pie later this week.

A-a-a-nd I guess that is all Blogger is going to upload today. Hope they fix this problem soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Window of Opportunity

One day of sunshine. One day with no rain. So I mowed, even though the yard did not really need it. During the week I'm generally too busy in the evenings to do much yard work and I will be out of town next weekend, so yesterday was the day.

I wanted to upload some pix, but Blogger is not co-operating today. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Day Two

And two days is all it took to completely eliminate the silver maples.

Even the stumps that were left on Monday...

... were nothing but piles of sawdust on Tuesday.

The crew did a great job. There was nary a rut in the yard, a damage shrub, a mess of any kind. I looked for something to complain about, but came up empty. If you have trees that need attention, I recommend that you contact Mudrack Tree Service.

This is a lousy photo, but it shows two love bunnies who moments before had been romping in the yard, taking turns gently chasing each other. I guess they had too cool off by laying in the rain.

Note the "lake" in the background. That is my driveway. It was on the list to be replaced this year, but now I am distracted by the Florida room, plus concrete is really expensive right now. Maybe next year. Then I can flank the drive with rain gardens. Yeah!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Day One

Now you see it...

Now you don't...

Now you see them...

Now you don't...

Three down, one to go. The backyard looks naked without those silver maples and will take some getting used to. Now I know why the sky out west looks so big - no trees.

The tree guys left me a little firewood (at my behest), so tonight I stacked that by the back fence, then cleaned up some brush piles so that I could more easily reach the compost pile. I sifted enough compost to treat the rest of the backyard perennials, plus the ones on the north and south sides of the house. Despite the weather forecast, it started to sprinkle, which gave me an excuse for stopping for the night. I'm whooped.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Late Bloomer

These flowers trail the rest of the daffodils. Not sure why. Are they really narcissus or jonquil? Whatever. It's nice to see that corner of the yard still in bloom.

For some reason, my back is bothering me today, on a day when the weather is just perfect for being outdoors. I did manage to mow front and back and clear off the deck in anticipation of the tree service. I also hoed up a bit of garden for some snap peas, mesclun, and mustard greens. A little late to be planting them, but I had the seed, so why not give it a try?

Otherwise, I have pretty much decided not to plant much this year because of the impending yard transformation. Instead, I plan to frequent the local farmers markets. One is just down the road, on Wednesday evenings, the other downtown on Saturdays. Between the two, I expect to enjoy a lot of fresh produce.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Committed (I Think)

Monday is the day the trees come down. I keep telling myself that I can change my mind at the last minute, but like with my wedding, I know I won't. The backyard will be so different, hopefully in a good way.

Now that the rhododendron is done, it is time to obsess over another shrub.

I am in love with my sandcherry. Everyday it has more and more blossoms. I can't get over what a nice addition it is to my yard.

I was told by someone who should know that this is an Old Fasioned lilac. He said he could tell by the mildew it develops later in the season.

It is not the most handsome lilac around, and it is so close to the property line that I try to keep it pruned back, probably too much, but I guess I'll keep it. For now.

Today is gray and threatening, so it will be an indoor day. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, though. The roar of lawnmowers will fill the air!