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.

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.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A quandary

I short while ago I happily reported caterpillars on some milkweed in my yard. There were only a few milkweed plants in this particular location, along the south side of the house, where I have been establishing a prairie sampler. I wondered what the caterpillars would do, once the milkweeds were decimated.

Bye-bye, butterfly weed

Apparently, they crawled down the bed and proceeded to decimate the butterfly weed as well. There were only three plants to begin with. Now all I can find is this one, stripped of its blossoms and leaves. I hope the roots survive the winter and it (and its brethren) return next year.

I can't fence out the moths and butterflies, but I do discourage the rabbits with hoops of poultry netting. Otherwise, this is what happens.

Smooth move, aster-loving rabbit

Smooth aster must be particularly yummy. I protected the other asters, but missed this one.

The switch grass had flopped over my new oakleaf hydrangea. When I went to check on the situation, I found that the hydrangea was GONE. I'm not sure if the culprit is a rabbit or the resident woodchuck. I've never had to worry about the Limelight hydrangea, so I assumed this one was safe. The joke is on me.

The case of the disappearing hydrangea

My yard is not designated a backyard habitat for nothing, but I admit to being rather peeved when the denizens of that habitat do more damage than I deem acceptable. I'm not the only one to suffer the ravages of wildlife, but at least I don't have a porcupine to deal with. Or deer. At least, not yet.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I'm bugged

August must be the month for bugginess in the garden. Pollinators seem to be at their busiest, including bees, of course.

I don't know what these orange and black beetles are, but they are everywhere.

Although I do not have photographic proof, I am 95% sure I saw an Eastern Tailed - Blue (Everes comyntas) on the Joe Pye last week. We'll have to settle for this white cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae) which is omnipresent each year, all summer long.

At least I found a monarch, on the zinnias and not the milkweed, nectaring and not laying eggs. Maybe some other summer we'll have caterpillars.

There are lots of other little insects of one sort or another, not inclined to sit still and be photographed, let alone identified. I accept their presence as a good sign, that my yard welcomes all bugs, as long as they stay out of the house proper.