Friday, May 27, 2016

Almost famous

I store my photos in Flickr. A few years ago, someone contacted me about purchasing (for real money!) a couple of garden shots. Recently, I was contacted by a nursery in France regarding my 'Limelight' hydrangea photos. No remuneration for the latter, but they did credit the pix. View them here.

Most nurseries use profession photographers to produce impossibly beautiful images for their catalogs. But doesn't it make more sense to show the plants as successfully grown by the average gardener?

Thursday, May 26, 2016


The volunteer flowers that I have been calling phlox are actually dame's rocket, an invasive. It comes and goes in my yard, so I never thought of it as a problem. In wild preserves, however, it is another story. Sorry.

In more responsible gardening news, the 'Betty Corning' clematis is busting out all over. I was afraid the smallish openings in the trellis would not be sufficient, but never fear. We had to shore up the trellises a couple of times, to keep everything upright. Maybe next year I will give the plants more room - they are kind of smooshed up against the siding.

In other clematis news, the Niobe I have been nursing along for YEARS finally feels comfortable enough to bloom. Maybe next year it will get tall enough to climb its trellis, in the company of black eyed Susan vine. Hopefully, that will be a sight to see.

In other climbing news, I did repot the cardinal vines, into brand new clay pots. (I swear I have a variety of clay pots around here somewhere, but damned if I can find them.) Now they can climb the redbud trees to their hearts' content.

In the reach-for-the-sky department, I picked a nursery brain about the stretchy nature of the purple smoke tree's limbs. She suggested that the poor thing might not be getting enough sun. This makes sense, as since I planted it, the nearby Crimson King maple tree has finally become large enough to shade that corner of the house.

The surprise of the week are these cherries, on the Northern Star tart cherry tree (I think).

I wonder if there will be enough for pie?

In not-so-surprising news, the highbush cranberry viburnum is pumping out the blossoms. I have a love-hate relationship with viburnums, due to some errant purchases several years ago. This one was a good choice, however.

In other fruit and vegetable news, my son and I sampled the first two strawberries of the season. The garlic is going strong, as are the onions. The Irish potatoes are up, but the broccoli appears to be stalled. Ditto some marigolds I planted in the pea/bean beds. Maybe the weather has been too weird lately.

Speaking of weather, it feels rather summery this week, so I planted pole beans, corn, and sunflowers, transplanted tomatoes and hot peppers. I'm holding off on the sweet potatoes, for now.

There is (always) more to report, but I'll save that for another post.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More shopping

Yesterday I stopped by Arbor Farms and arranged (with money) for two trees to be planted in my yard. One is a Triumph Elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy'), for the backyard, to shade the deck (someday). The other is a Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis 'Winter King'), for the front yard. I would have bought more, but one tree I wanted, Perfect Purple Flowering Crab (Malus 'Perfect Purple'), will not be available until midsummer. I'm fine with that, because I need to dig out the old fashioned lilac first anyway. I also considered a Tiger Eyes Sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'), to replace the grasses by the front porch, but there was a mature specimen at the nursery and it is not the kind of plant to go next to the house.

Then it was back to Stuckys, as my resistance to their Cardinal Vines had withered. I bought three, to put under the Redbud trees. I'm leaving them in their pots but burying them in the mulch - hope that works out okay. (Or maybe I should transplant them to clay pots? Hmmm.) I also picked up two more lantana for the pergola, plus three different pink petunias for my granddaughter to plant in her little plastic wagon. The petunias are to make up for the fact I accidentally broke the handle on the wagon. Bad grandma.

Meanwhile, I continue to chip away at the lost cause of a backyard I have. Most of the south shrub bed is edged and somewhat weeded and trimmed. I uncovered four out of five Blue Hostas I planted there a while back, plus a holly that is languishing amongst the weeds. There are three clumps of what I think of as ditch lilies, hidden from sight. There are additional holly plants equally languishing beneath the arborvitae. Now that my son has cleared out the area behind the garden, I am contemplating moving all the holly plants (they are still quite smallish) there, to provide some screening (assuming they ever recover and grow to their natural size).

Since the underground utilities will soon be marked for the planting of the trees, today my son and I cleared out the wilderness area where much of the marking will occur, including the pathway of the shallowly buried fiber optics cable. I also started some seedlings for squashes, cukes, and pumpkins. I used to direct seed these, but discovered I have better success this way. HOPEFULLY, this week I can transplant the tomatoes and direct seed the beans and corn. I did direct seed some zinnias where the transplants succumbed to a recent frost. (Stupid weather.)

Let's see - anything else? We weeded the blueberry patch and discovered that, although the rabbits had eaten the three remaining plants to the ground, they had recovered enough to make a showing. This year I WILL protect them with poultry netting. I've been wondering if situating the bird bath under the tulip tree has contributed to its sparrow problem, so I moved the birdbath. And speaking of birds, I was wrong about the sparrows and the blue bird boxes. Too bad.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Which one doesn't look like the other?

I'm not sure what happened here, to make one planter of lettuce robust and the others anemic. Maybe the anemic ones were planted in potting soil from last year, while the robust one received fresher potting soil. Or it could be the other way around. I suspect it is the former, as most of my seedlings also looked anemic, despite treatment with fish emulsion. Does potting soil go bad over the winter?

Last year's potting soil was the standard Miracle Gro stuff from Home Depot, while this year I purchased Miracle Gro Organic Choice, from Costco. The reviews of the latter are mixed, to say the least, but I still think it is the better of the two this spring, if only because it is fresher.

I raised this lettuce to give away, but I'm too embarrassed to gift any but the robust planter. It will go to my neighbor across the street. Maybe I can revive the other planters by side dressing with the newer potting soil.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

When the weather is tough, the tough go shopping

The weather is wet and windy and generally yucky. I'd never been to the Master Gardeners plant sale, so I decided today would be a good day to get a lethal chill. There were lots of perennials and a few vegetable plants, plus a few other vendors offered fruit trees and natives. Without a plan, though, I hated to buy stuff just to be buying stuff. I actually walked away plantless.

Since I was in a plant-buying mood, I stopped at Stuckys on the way home and dropped a C-note to help the local economy. I've been wanting to plant something yellow in front of the barberry and have been leaning toward a dwarf golden variety of the same. At Stuckys I spotted a creeping broad-leaved sedge 'Banana Boat' that would offer not only a different color, but different form and texture as well. That's good, right?

It also tolerates clay soil, prefers moisture (its future location is on the wet side of the driveway), and wants to be shaded. If it creeps under the barberry, that is fine with me, but I expect it to be more mound-shaped.

Because I am a sucker for sedum, I picked up a few Sedum rupestre (reflexum) 'Lemon Ball' plants. The bed by the front walk contains quite a few sedums already, both creeping and tall. I am planning to move the 'Autumn Joy' from under the Japanese maple to this bed, but am trying to do it in a more controlled fashion than my usual willy-nilly style.

And yet I made this purchase impulsively.

I wasn't going to grow any tomatoes this year, but my son is staying with me right now and requested some cherries. 'Juliet' (a grape variety) and 'Sunsugar' (a yellow cherry) came home with me. It's the least I can do, in exchange for all the mowing he does for me.

My attempts to grow annual vines look pretty pathetic, and I was tempted by some much more robust specimens at Stuckys, but balked at paying $8 a pop for them (even though they each came with their own little bamboo trellis). The ornamental sweet potato also tempted me, but I opted for the lavender trailing lantana (Lantana Rastrera) instead. Both are attractive to the eye, but the latter is also attractive to butterflies. We'll see how it does on the pergola.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dem boids

Sparrows have become the bane of my gardening existence. Not only to they mangle the tulip tree, they ruin the pea crop and take over the blue bird houses. I may be gaining the upper hand, though. Hanging strips of mylar (made from a cheapo space blanket) over the peas and topping the blue bird houses with a web of fishing line seem to work.

Just to *prove* both sparrow deterrents work, I sat on the deck for an extended period of time, observing the pea patches and the blue bird houses. Nary a sparrow at either. In fact, there were no birds at all at either. Now that I have foiled the sparrows, maybe some blue birds will actually take up residence.

While keeping an eye out for sparrows, I spotted a rose-breasted grosbeak - actually two - visiting the sunflower seed feeder. I think this is the first time I have seen this species in my yard. Almost makes up for the stupid sparrows.

This bird is supposed to favor orchards. My mini-orchard has eight trees (so far). Maybe that is enough to draw them in.

Today I had a disappointing visit from a local landscape company. My goal was to have them at least clear out the weeds and shit from the two shrub beds that line the backyard, and edge and mulch them. The rep claimed it would cost $2000 in labor alone, to do the job. And then, without constant vigilance on my part, within three weeks the weeds would pop through the mulch. Huh? They must not put down a barrier between soil and mulch. Newspaper works quite well for me. If my brain hadn't gotten stuck at the labor cost, my mouth might have asked about this.

After the rep left, I got a little pissed. This company has the reputation of being the best (if the priciest) here in town. And he did not know the difference between poison ivy and Virginia creeper, nor was he familiar with the Blackhaw Viburnum (which he wanted to prune - why? It has reached its maximum size.) So I took my anger out on the yard, sort of. I edged the hydrangea bed, mulched around the kitchen compost bin, and mulched (with stone) the deck (to discourage burrowing critters).

The rep was impressed with my stunted Serviceberry, but did not notice the rhubarb that ate New York. Or maybe he did not know it was rhubarb.

Can you say "PIE"?

Monday, May 09, 2016


I don't grow tulips because the rabbits eat them. This must be a particularly good year for tulips, though; I see gorgeous displays of them wherever I go. Maybe I should rethink my anti-tulip stance and create a bunny-proof bed for them.

These pix were taken at Foster Park. Not only were there tulips, there were entire beds of forget-me-nots. I love forget-me-nots, but never considered growing them en masse. Another new idea for the yard.

How does one choose from all the wonderful garden design ideas out there?

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A couple of perfect days

Finally, it feels like spring. Yesterday I spent a goodly amount of time in the yard, transplanting, seeding, weeding, etc. Today my SO came over and we constructed some cheap, but effective compost bins.

Not a big task, but one more item we can check off the to-do list.

On the not so happy side of the house, I noticed this tent caterpillar nest in the purple sand cherry:

It is the first time I have seen such a thing in my yard. I cut off the branch and burned the nest. I'm hoping that is the end of this story.

One of the areas I weeded yesterday was the bed by the front walk. I dug out the lavender plants and passed them on to my SO, as they were becoming rather unruly. We both puzzled over this plant:

It looks like a salvia, but the foliage at the base is rather dense and spreading, so I fear it is a weed of some sort (whereby "weed" is a plant growing where one does not want it to grow). There are a couple of them, and I'll let them be for now. I have planted so many bulbs and plants into this bed over the past several years that I have lost track of what should be there and what should not.

Finn, the helpful gardening cat, continues to guard the yard. He hasn't caught all the bunnies yet, but I have not seen the woodchuck lately. Maybe he has taken up residence elsewhere. (Knock on wood.)

Although I like my pink flamingos, I have never understood the attraction of garden gnomes. That is, until I found this one at a nearby garage sale.

The resident old fart exclaimed, "I can't believe anyone is buying that ugly thing!" and then promptly dubbed me the Gnome Lady. I've been called worse.

Thursday, May 05, 2016


I am so tired of talking about the weather. Wet and windy yesterday, a good day to spend my children's inheritance on the yard. I purchased some "garden fence" at TSC, to (re)build the compost bins that fell apart after many years of service. Then I succumbed to the four Dwarf Gold Mop shrubs I've been coveting. They get only 2-3 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and should camouflage the rabbit damage at the base of the arborvitae. I balked at the price at Stuckey's Greenhouse last year, but after shopping around, discovered it was a good price.

Either bravely or foolishly, I have been transplanting a few things here and there. My annual success story is the continuation of the coleus I favor for the box on the front porch. It does really well and I like the color, so rather than gamble on it being available each year, I save a mother plant in the fall and start cuttings from it in the spring. So far, so good.

I have a love-hate relationship with my lawn. On the one hand, it would be nice if it were weed-free. On the other, I like seeing clover, violets, and other "wild" flowers creep into it. There is a big patch of wild strawberry to the north of the King Crimson maple. I have no explanation as to where it came from or why it likes that spot, but it is welcome to stay.

Last year's rhubarb looked rather anemic. I dosed it well with horse manure this past fall. Now it looks positively robust, just in time for birthday pie, an annual tradition for my kids.

One victim of retirement has been my desire to cook. Consequently, I don't know how I will use up all this garlic. It is fun - and easy! - to grow, but I'm not sure I will continue with it.

A victim of various remodeling projects was my lovely Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart. I replaced it and am happy that the replacement is alive and doing well.

I have yet to capture on "film" the iridescent color of the purple smoke tree leaves. In sunlight, they positively glow. On a gray and gloomy day, this is the closest I can get.

We are supposed to get a couple of sunny-ish days, so between other engagements, I may be found in the yard.