Sunday, June 26, 2016

Good help is hard to find

Prior to planting two trees in my yard, the tree folks contacted the underground utility folks to have the underground utilities marked. When grinding big holes with a big auger, it is wise to avoid a big kaboom from hitting a gas line. While it did not affect the tree planting, the gas mains that run through utility easements on the north and west sides of my property were not marked, which surprised me.

I have my yard marked every year because every year I am digging and transplanting and moving plants around. Last year, I was home when the underground utility guy arrived, so I followed him around. When he failed to detect the above mentioned gas mains, I pointed out the error of this ways. Even though they have been marked every previous time I have dialed 811, this guy told me that the gas company maps indicated the mains were on my neighbor's property. Yet when he ran his detector gadget over the easement on my side, he found the main. (The gas line to my other neighbor's house crosses a corner of my property as well, but since this is where the compost piles are, I don't worry about it.)

This year I want to plant two Dwarf Gold Mops perilously close to the gas main, and dig up a lilac bush that is similarly situated. I'm guessing I could do both without risk, as the mains are probably deep enough to avoid my hand tools. BUT I would rather be safe than sorry. Also, I am a slave to safety rules.

Today I decided I could at least (or at last) get the gout weed planted under the 'Limelight' Hydrangea. Because of the orange and red flags and spray paint, I had to play around with where exactly to position them. But while (gingerly) digging the planting holes, I discovered two MORE cables. One is probably the Comcast cable. I don't subscribe to Comcast and don't really care about their silly cable (and twenty years ago, my dog chewed it up where it enters the house), but it still seems like poor form to deliberately cut through it. So I again rearranged the plants to work around this obstacle. But then I found another cable. It may be the old pre-fiber optic phone line, but I decided I should work around that one as well.

Eventually, all six gout weed plants made it into the ground. I'll call 811 tomorrow and ask about all this. There are only three plants still waiting their turn to be installed, the two Dwarf Gold Mops and a Pagoda Dogwood that will be located nowhere close to any utility lines.

My SO helped me with the Oak Leaf Hydrangea today, which we planted next to the front porch, far from the utilities. My original plan was to move all the ornamental grasses beforehand, but there was a gap among the grasses perfectly equidistant from the sidewalk, the house, the rhododendron, and the lawn. We stuck the hydrangea there and trimmed back some of the Northern Sea Oats to make it visible. Now we can move the grasses at our leisure.

I hope the hydrangea likes its new home.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What's blooming now

My yard seems to have a gap in late spring bloomers, but now that summer is officially here, others are stepping up.

The cardinal vines planted in pots under the redbud trees are starting to blossom. The flowers are smaller than I expected (this is the first time I have grown these), so I'm hoping they make up for their size with profuseness. The vines seem to be doing okay in the clay pots but need daily watering.

The stalks of the yuccas shot up when no one was looking and are now blooming. I once tried to dig out these plants, but only succeeded in goosing them into multiplying. I give up and will cede the bed to them.

I plant bees friend in the vegetable garden and orchard, in the cement blocks that form some of the raised beds. I had never heard of this plant, tried it, liked it. More importantly, the bees really like it, especially since it is more resistant to fall frosts than other flowering plants.

A few hardy coreopsis continue to perform, this one 'Zagreb'. They need to be divided, but it was the 'Autumn Joy' sedum's turn this year.

That sweet smell I detect comes from the common milkweed that pop up here and there.

I have always had at least some milkweed in the yard, but I have NEVER seen a single monarch caterpillar. Maybe it is because of the occasional aphid infestation? I've read that monarchs will not lay eggs on plants like this one.

Not all the plants are infested, so I will try to eliminate the danger and see if that makes any difference. My expectations are low. Maybe there has to be a certain density of milkweed?

I had a vision of white shasta daisies blooming against a background of red climbing roses. Unfortunately, the roses are in serious decline by the time the daisies pop. (I don't know why some of the daisies flopped.)

But now I am thinking the daisies would play nice with the orange tiger lilies I divided this year. At least the bloom times would match. Anybody that tries to flop could be tied to the chain link fence.

Orange you glad we bloomed?

I read that the new Triumph Elm in my backyard may be susceptible to Japanese beetles. It's a good thing I plant hollyhocks as a trap for those shiny buggers.

I purchased the seed for black hollyhocks many years ago, so I was somewhat surprised last year when it germinated. Of the four plants I started, only one survived the winter. I'm thinking maybe I should start some more this year, as they are biennials that bloom the second year.

Maybe these would like to join the tiger lilies and daisies?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

More newbies

Today's big news is the installation of two trees, a Triumph Elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy') for the back yard and a Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis 'Winter King') for the front.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where, once upon a time, the streets were lined with elms. This variety is a product of the Chicagoland Grows program, and combines the vase-shaped form with disease and insect resistance. It grows 60' tall and 40' wide, and someday (knock on wood) will shade the deck and pergola. Elms serve as host plants for several species of butterflies, so maybe I will be lucky enough to attract some.

The Winter King Hawthorn grows to be about 25' high and 25' wide. Abundant white flowers in the spring produce tomato-orange berries for the birds. The leaves turn from glossy green to burgundy in fall (fitting in with my dark red/purple color scheme in the front yard). I must remember to not freak out over the peeling bark. Also, thorns.

(I'm past the age of digging ginormous holes for big trees. The tree planting crew of two had a huge auger to chew up the clay soil, but they still had to resort to shovels. I am happy to pay for their services.)

Last weekend I visited a friend whose family owns a wholesale nursery. Her husband offered me some shrubs from his inventory, all things I didn't really want, but he managed to scrounge up an oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).

I know exactly where I want to plant it - next to the front porch - but first I need to move the ornamental grasses that grow there. Since the nearby Crimson King maple is (FINALLY) big enough to throw a shadow, the grasses are not doing as well. Like most (all?) hydrangeas, this one likes its share of shade. And the flowers smell wonderful! (Unlike the 'Blue Muffin' viburnum blossoms, which smell like carrion.)

There are still a few other plants to go into the ground as well, but the weather has turned dry and the ground is assuming its usual concrete-like tendencies. The hysteria mongers on the local news stations keep promising severe thunderstorms, but so far each weather system slides right past. I'd better go do some watering.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I came, I saw, I bought

The Saturday before last, I visited two nurseries and bought nothing (a rare occurance). This past Saturday I planned to visit two more nurseries, bought so much at one that I skipped the other. (I had stopped at the skipped one Friday, to scope things out, but found only one plant that captivated me, which I can return for later if I so wish.)

After a drive into the country that took me past the Spencerville covered bridge, down a road that turned to gravel, to another gravel road, to ANOTHER gravel road, I was the first to arrive at the Riverview Native Plant Nursery open house. According to their website, the plants are "native to northeastern Indiana with local genotypes and known provenance". And they have shrubs and trees as well as perennials (to my demise).

I came with the intention of replacing a butterfly weed and a purple prairie clover that went MIA from the fall planted prairie sampler. I also wanted more prairie smoke, because three is not enough. I didn't see any big blue stem, but I asked and they appeared, a bit skimpy on top but with robust root systems. And then there were the impulse selections.

I passed up the rain garden/wet ground plantings. I could plant a rain garden next to the driveway, but I'm not ready yet. I ignored the coneflower - got plenty of that. I was going to snub the coreopsis as well, but after eyeballing an entire patch of it in full bloom behind the house, the result of self-seeding, decided I could make use of that somewhere. I also fell for the rattlesnake master.

The big purchases, however, were the pagoda dogwood and witch hazel. I snagged them with no idea of where they could go in my yard, especially the dogwood, as it needs some protection from the sun. I'm still debating where to put it, while it sits patiently on the deck.

Meanwhile, the prairie smoke, purple prairie clover, and butterfly weed are in place. I installed the big blue stem in front of the recently relocated holly plants, behind the vegetable garden. The witch hazel went in the hole left by one of the holly plants, between a 'Blue Muffin' arrowwood viburnum and a forsythia. A shipment of creeping wintergreen, which arrived from Jung Seeds via USPS on Saturday, is now under the arborvitae and the rhododendron.

Helpful gardening cat
The empty pots are piling up. I *think* I am done buying plants for this spring, but I am aware that there seems to be a paucity of blooms right now. 'Betty Corning' is bursting, the shasta daisy finally popped (disappointingly after the nearby red roses faded), and the 'Chicago Lustre' arrowwood viburnum are in bloom, as is the purple smoke tree (which is *gorgeous* this year - photos never do it justice). Oh, and the few remaining 'Stella d' Oro' daylilies. Otherwise, not much is happening. Rectifying this is on my list for next year.

From Riverview:
  • Pagoda dogwood
  • Witch hazel
  • Prairie smoke (6)
  • Purple prairie clover
  • Lance-leaved coreopsis (3)
  • Rattlesnake master
  • Big blue stem (4)
  • Butterfly weed

From Jung Seeds:
  • Creeping wintergreen (6)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Lazy Fair

I confess I sometimes take a laissez faire approach to my yard, which is usually NOT a good thing. Plants get out of control, or worse, they die. The place starts to look like a jungle and becomes overwhelming in a very short time.

Topped cherry trees
Maybe it is the orchard and its requirements for severe pruning, but this summer I have been turning a critical eye toward the shrubbery and trees. That critical eye is frequently followed by a limb saw and/or lopper and/or snipper of one sort or another.

Topped apple trees
If I were more on top of things, I would have taken before and after photos. I might not have even taken these shots, but I'm reacquainting myself with an older, more compact camera, to take on the Garden Fling in Minneapolis come July. The light was not the best in most of these cases, but I think the camera itself will do.

Trimmed up redbud tree
The redbud tree closest to the deck was blocking my view of the backyard, so it was one of the first to get trimmed up. The other two received similar treatment. A plus to trimming up is it is easier to reach the base of the trees, which in this case allows me to keep the cardinal vine plants watered.

Trimmed up viburnum and redbud tree
Another plus to pruning is it keeps one shrub from impinging too much on its neighbor. This is a real problem with my forsythia, which are planted too close to the arborvitae. I've taken to whacking them severely.

Trimmed up arrowwood viburnums
Trimming up also allows more light to reach the bed underneath, inviting contemplation of what to plant as understory plants.

Trimmed up purple smoke tree
I have been more diligent about weeding. The other day it was the Canada thistle under attack, as the plants were starting to form buds. Yesterday it was something I don't know the name of but that is particularly prolific. Today I pulled errant northern sea oats from behind the rhododendron. (For more about battling weeds, see gardeninacity's post. What he said.)

Volunteer oak tree
More diligent weeding has uncovered some surprises: the baby oak tree above and the volunteer elm tree below. I plan to let the elm continue to grow in situ, between the Viburnum prunifolium and a Rose of Sharon shrub; it will break of the monotony of a row of bushes. If I keep the oak, it will have to move away from the house and into the yard, then survive absent minded mowing.

Volunteer elm tree
Regarding the gayfeather mentioned recently, I did move it, to the prairie sampler bed on the south side of the house. Initially, it is pouting - no one likes to relocate - but I think it will be very happy there, eventually.

Moping gayfeather
In sadder news, something got to the broccoli plants.

Bitten broccoli
I took a tour of the garden fence and discovered this breach.

Animal incursion
Previously, I had reinforced this corner with additional poultry netting, as little bunnies were squeezing in and out of there. Apparently, that did not stop something bigger (woodchuck? rabbit?) from bypassing my effort. Sometimes I wonder why I bother to grow edibles at all.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Another found plant

After releasing some hostas from their weedy prison, I started cutting back the rest of the crap in that area and discovered this:

I kept nudging the back of my mind and came up with liatris. A blog search reveals that this plant is most likely a liatris spicata, a.k.a. gayfeather, moved to its current location during a remodel of the house.

More than likely I will move it one more time, to the south side of the house. I don't think it bloomed last year - it probably needs more sun and fewer weeds.

Meanwhile, the 'Betty Corning' clematis seemed destined to be prone instead of upright. Despite supporting rebar, the two trellises kept toppling over. Today I secured them to the downspouts at each corner of the den. I have tied 'Betty' to the downspouts before, so I think this should be a safe solution.

I am still amazed at how well the Alberta spruce and two juniper chinensis have done in this location.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Hosta la vista, baby

In my efforts to identify what is growing where in my yard, I've run into the dilemma of simply not know what I have. The hostas are a perfect example. The first ones were planted in 1998 (I think), way before this blog came into being.

Mystery hosta #1

Mystery hosta #2

Mystery hosta #3 - maybe 'Francis Williams'?
I did jot down some info in an old gardening journal (that I failed to keep up). Also, once I started this blog, I created a plant page (which I also failed to keep up). And I found an old plant tag.

Hosta 'Golden Tiara' (I think)
I've tried matching my photos with photos online, but there are a lot of hosta varieties and many of them are rather similar.

Hosta 'Royal Standard'
And then there is my propensity to move things around, combined with my faulty memory.

Hosta fortunei hyacinthina, aka Hosta 'Blue' but it doesn't look very blue to me
Sometimes I think plant tags lie. For example, 'Big Daddy' is supposed to have big leaves, but so far mine don't. It is big with the rabbits, though.

Hosta 'Big Daddy' which is not very big
And if the hosta was a gift, there is no telling if the giver knows what he gave (even if he does own a wholesale nursery).

Hosta 'Love Pat', drowning amongst its neighbors
So I will do the best I can. I already know that I will move at least some of the above at some point. Hopefully, I will remember to record the new locations in this blog.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

In situ

We have been digging holes. (Well, mostly my SO has. I stand by and supervise.) Almost everything in current inventory is in the ground (although I expect more inventory any day now).

The photo above shows the newly installed Creeping Broad-leaved Sedge 'Banana Boat', a shade loving thing (or five) to contrast with the 'Crimson Pygmy' Barberry. To plant these, we extended the bed a bit. I anticipate adding something like white hyacinth for spring pizzazz.

Here we have four hollies, Ilex x meserveae 'Blue Princess' and 'Blue Prince', rescued from under the arborvitae. Their tale is long and sad - basically I was looking for creeping wintergreen, the nursery guy offered these up in its stead, and I insisted on treating them like shade-loving wintergreen instead of sun-craving holly - in 2010. One saw the light two years ago, or as much light as it could considering the weediness of its environs. Now all are out of the dark in what I hope is their final resting place, between the vegetable garden and the chain link fence.

They are in various stages of health, from superduper if compact to barely alive. Fingers crossed they all not only survive but thrive. By the way, these do not creep like the wintergreen I originally sought - they are supposed to get 10 (!) feet tall. I hope they have not been permanently stunted.

Once we rescued the holly, the Golden Mop Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Mops') could be installed to disguise the rabbit damage on the arborvitae (which occurred their second winter). The mops look little now, but these guys will grow 2'-3' wide and 2'-3' tall. These two are on the south side of the yard; there are two more for the arborvitae on the north side, but considering the shallow depth of the fiber optic cable nearby, I'm waiting for the yard to be marked by the underground utility guys before proceeding.

Not all planting occurred in ground. I purchased five planters for the pergola but used only four (and lost the receipt so I couldn't return the extra). This one is hanging on the vegetable garden fence and contains two dahlias and a lantana.

I am finding it ironic that earlier this spring I thought I had lost my gardening mojo and now I can barely stay away from my beloved plants. A big factor in this scenario is the help I have received from my son. He has taken on the mowing, helps with the weeding, and is working on some long-deferred projects of mine. The psychic boost of having a willing assistant is tremendous, even if he occasionally yanks up a non-weed in his enthusiasm.

Friday, June 03, 2016

They come and they go

While dividing and transplanting the 'Autumn Joy' Sedum, I found some old plant markers from previous attempts to fill the bed by the front walk. This discovery led me to comb through my blog, looking for references of what other plants I have loved and lost. The list is mournfully long.

Whatever happened to the lovely Hibiscus 'Luna Red'? Or the equally red crocosmia? Some plants just succumb, but others meet their demise because of my never ending need to move things around which results in my losing track of them. So now I am trying to catalog everything that is currently growing in my yard AND mark their location so they won't be forgotten.

Here are two examples of plants that need tracking collars. The Heuchera 'Zipper' above and the Japanese painted fern below are easy to forget about. I added the former to the hosta bed last year, the latter two years ago. I have faith that 'Zipper' will grow big and strong and fulfill its destiny to provide some contrast to the two other heurcheras that flank it. The fern has survived despite being located next to the dryer vent, but I think it could do better elsewhere, if I don't forget it altogether.

Without some kind of system, I will also continue to make the mistake of calling something one thing when it is something else entirely. Take the grass below, which I have been referring to as big blue stem, even though it looks nothing like big blue stem, especially its plume-like seed heads. My SO commented in passing how it looks similar to his silver grass but not quite.

After scrolling through my blog, I now think it is maiden hair grass, a.k.a. Chinese silver grass. I planted some in the yard once upon a time and don't know what happened to it. I think this plant (which I moved to its current location last fall) might be it.

How do you maintain your garden census?