Sunday, May 27, 2018


The weather is not cooperating with my goal of getting all the plants transplanted by June 1. Yesterday the rest of the 'Torch' Mexican sunflowers and all of the 'Scarlet-Red' zinnias went in. The latter mostly filled the edges of the madder bed. I planted madder for its roots, which are used to dye fiber red, but it is not much to look at. Hence, the red zinnias. The balance of the zinnias and Mexican sunflowers went into a raised bed along with the surviving dyer's knotweed. Trays of seedlings have been sitting on the deck for about a month, undisturbed by the dogs, until one of them decided the chew up half the dyer's knotweed, plus a few empty seedling pots.

I have also been weeding. Instead of clearing a whole bed at one time, my MO is to pursue eradicating a particular weed all around the yard. Today, until the heat and humidity drove me inside, it was Canada thistle. This strategy is helpful in areas where I am growing something I am not that familiar with, at it helps prevent me from yanking the wrong plant. For example, while working in the "prairie" area, I was able to identify some lance-leaf coreopsis and asters that I might have pulled had I not been scouting for the thistle. Another easy to spot and remove "weed" is volunteer wheat that pops up where I have mulched with straw.

Speaking of mulch, the pile is shrinking. Despite piling it on thick, some plants like pokeberry and milkweed are breaking through. I let some of the pokeberry survive because I want to use the berries for eco-dyeing. The milkweed I have mixed feelings about. Part of me wants to limit it to the milkweed patch, but I hope the more I have, the more likely I will get monarchs that will lay eggs.

Yesterday I heard a wren singing in the neighbors yard, so I made a point to clean out and hang my two wren houses. Today a male wren started building a nest in one, loudly advertising his endeavors. Such a big voice from such a tiny bird!

Thursday, May 24, 2018


The blossoming continues. Unfortunately, the light is not always ideal and I am not the best photo editor around. So while I am documenting the progression of the flowering, some of the pics are not the most flattering. Not that the plants care.

I keep trying to capture the way the purple-leaf plantings in the front yard enhance the rest. An example is the hawthorn and the 'Crimson King' maple trees.

The hawthorn is peaking blossom-wise.

The 'Wentworth' highbush cranberry is coming on strong.

I love the delicate details of the flowers.

Behind the highbush cranberry is the easy-to-neglect 'Alabama Crimson' honeysuckle vine. It has been blooming for a while. I keep meaning to provide it with a trellis so it can show off more.

Just getting to the honeysuckle is a challenge.

The sad looking shrub on the right is the 'Aphrodite' Rose of Sharon. It is always late to the dance, but is looking particularly peaked this spring. I think I will cut it back severely and see if it recovers. And while it is in a smaller size, maybe I will get that trellis installed for the honeysuckle.

I am not sure if the catmint in the milkweed bed is 'Walkers Low' or 'Six Hills Giant'. If you look closely, you can see a milkweed plant sprouting in the midst of the catmint. By the way, I spotted a monarch today, fluttering around some milkweed on the south side of the house, but alas, it did not land.

I'm glad this catmint is doing so well because the Russian sage planted at the corners of the bed is not.

A few plants of dames rocket spot the yard. This is a non-native invasive that I have mistaken for some kind of phlox in the past. Sometimes there is a lot, sometimes a little. I let it hang around because I like it.

The false indigo gets bigger every year. When I planted it I had no idea just how big it would get. I'm happy with it, though.

There is some volunteer columbine mixed in with it this year.

This poor 'Niobe' clematis keeps trying but has never lived up to its reputation of being 8'-12' tall. It adds another shade of purple to the front yard, though.

Meanwhile, my efforts to get rid of the yucca is turning into a game of whack-a-mole. The roots keep sending up more shoots. I snip them off and they come back. I'm beginning to wonder if a yucca is forever.

My immediate goal (besides moving the giant pile of mulch in the driveway and keeping the lawn mowed) is to get the rest of the transplants into the ground. There are the ones I bought, which are waiting rather patiently. Then there are the ones I grew, which are moving on as best they can despite my starting them too early and transplanting them too late, like these Profusion zinnias.

For the record, three 'Luna Red' hibiscus are in their own raised bed; I started more plants, as I want at least four. Today I planted some zucchini and cucumber in paper cups, to get them off to a good start. Last year's hollyhock did not all come back - it looks like some of them rotted in the ground - so I transplanted some 'Torch' sunflowers into that bed, to keep the survivors company. I've neglected the alyssum I purchased earlier (and it shows), so I've been moving it and some of the Profusion zinnias to containers.

I was wrong about the climbing rose being dead, as it is sending up some new growth from its base; it probably heard me musing about planting a honeysuckle in its place. I whacked back the forsythia again, as it just won't stop growing. I'm beginning to wonder if forsythia is forever, too.

And I have been weeding, weeding, weeding, especially the Canada thistle. How about you?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

View from the living room

This morning, when I opened the living room curtains, lo and behold, the 'Winter King' hawthorn had bloomed in the night. It's not quite at its peak, but rain is forecast for the next several days, so I decided to snap a pic while I could.

Unfortunately, these blossoms, while pretty, are also pretty stinky. Think carrion. That doesn't seem to deter the pollinators. In fact, maybe it attracts them?

I have to admit, I am pleased with how the front yard looks, especially the purple and yellow combo.

Depending on where one stands, the purple accentuates the rest. You'd think I'd planned it. And while they don't show in these pics, there are volunteer columbine almost everywhere.

For the record, today I managed to get more plants into the ground. Twelve butterfly weed went into the milkweed patch, around the edges, where hopefully they will get enough light. I could not figure out why I had extra marigolds until I remembered some were for the zucchini bed, so those are now in. I also transferred the pole beans to the bean bed, leaving the sprouts in their paper cups but ripping the bottom off; my food production is down to asparagus, rhubarb, beans, and zucchini. Despite my attempts to keep my homegrown transplants straight, I mixed up the cosmos and the dyers coreopsis. They each went into a bed today; I'll figure out which is which later.

I am SO glad I invested in a riding mower. Besides helping with the mulch, it makes mowing a LOT less of a chore. That's a real help this time of year, when I am mowing about every four days. It's funny - I don't fertilize my lawn, but it looks greener than the professionally treated lawns on either side of me, primarily because I mow high instead of scalping the grass.

Are you keeping up with yardening this spring?

Friday, May 18, 2018

You gotta be quick

Some flowers, whether on trees, shrubs, or standing on their own, don't last long. It is easy to miss the peak display while waiting for them to peak. Since this spring feels compressed, there is something new almost every day.

I was hoping the chives would bloom along with something else in the same bed, but the daffodils are too early and the daylilies too late. I see these when I look out my kitchen window, and they still cheer me.

Since this is the first year for the Prairie Fire crabapple and it still looks mostly like a stick, I'm not sure how long the blossoms will last. The Perfect Purple crab in the front yard is done, so I'm enjoying these while they last.

Since the prairie smoke are in the bed on the south side of the house, an area I don't visit very often, it is easy to forget them. I would like to line the front of the bed with these, but I'm afraid the more aggressive plants will overwhelm them.

We are still spreading wood chips. I still have gobs of plants to go into the ground. Before I can transplant, though, I have to weed and prep the beds. It looks like the butterfly bush did not survive being moved, but it didn't look all that great to begin with. If it is defunct, I think I will not replace it.

Are you keeping up this spring?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I turned my back for a few days

This past Saturday was spent mostly doing housework, Sunday was Mother's Day so family came over (hence the reason for the housecleaning), and Monday it poured, so my SO and I left town. Today I was surprised to find *more* flowering going on in the yard. (Please excuse all the weeds!)

Volunteer Canadian columbine are popping up all over the place

Prunifolium viburnum, a.k.a. Blackhaw

Aronia melanocarpa, a.k.a. Chokeberry

Chokeberry, up close

Prairie Fire crabapple, year ONE

Finding blossoms on the stick-like Prairie Fire crab was a delightful surprise. Not all color is from flowers, though. Two shrubs I planted last summer are fulfilling their promise of providing contrast to my mostly-purple-leafed front yard.

Lemony Lace elderberry

Golden Spirit smokebush

Not everything is doing well, though. It looks like the climbing rose bit the dust. Periodically, I would contemplate removing it, only to have it put on a great show. After deciding I would keep it, I planted shasta daisies in front of it for contrast. Now it is dead. At least the hosta bed survived the dog trampling, as has one coral bells plant; the other is questionable, as is the mountain mint.

Palace Purple heuchera

Hosta bed

Big hostas have big impact, but my favorite is this small-leafed Golden Tiara (at least I think that is the variety). The bed also has some volunteer columbine and violets (and dandelion, which I cropped out of the pic).

Golden Tiara hosta

I hope your yard and garden are just as full of surprises!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Be careful what you wish for

I signed up with, in hopes a local arborist (who is also signed up with the service) would drop some wood chips at my property. No one did, no one did, and when I looked at the map of local chip drops, they were all on the far east side of town. I live north central, far enough away to not be worth the trip, I guess.

Lucky for me, neighbors on the next street decided to eliminate the pine trees fronting an empty lot they recently purchased. I usually hate to see trees removed, but the lot looks better AND I got a load of wood chips. It smells like xmas.

The guy who brought the truckload over kept warning me it would be a LOT of chips, but there really wasn't any way for him to dump less than the full load. I will share them with my immediate neighbors, but not before I use up as many as I can. And I think I can actually use them all myself, if I mulch the area between my privacy fence and the privet that belongs to the neighbor behind me.

Thank goodness for my riding mower and garden cart, as there is no way my SO and I could move all those chips using just body power. On day one, we managed to eliminate enough of the pile that I could get my car in and out of the garage. Today I took down the wire fence in the backyard, to make it easier to dump chips around the raised beds. It's still a lot of work, and I hope to never have to repeat this labor-of-love-my-yard.

BTW, if you inspect the photo above, you will see my SO semi-crouched behind the pile. Behind him is the 'Perfect Purple' flowering crab. I detached its trunk from one of the supports the other day, so now it is free to wiggle about a bit, as much as the second support system will allow. It is my understanding that the swaying of a tree helps it establish its roots as it struggles to cling to the Earth and remain upright.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

It's hard to keep up

It seems every time I turn around, something else is blooming or about to bloom. Spring feels compressed into less time - today it is in the 80's - so while everything is taking its turn, there seems to be a bit of shoving going on in the line.

The creeping phlox is not only creeping across and down the castle block, it is putting on a nice show. Each year, once the bloom is done, I prune it back a bit. This year I will do that but also let it continue moving down the front of that bed, so that it is draped over all the castle block. It doesn't seem interested in moving under the shrubs there; probably too shady.

I'm very pleased with the 'Perfect Purple' crabapple. It is only one year old but blooming like an old hand. It has two means of support; I'll remove the one along the trunk this year, the rest next year (per the nursery's recommendation).

The apple trees are blooming now. When I planted them, I was all gung ho on growing my own fruit. Almost immediately after, I lost interest. I'll leave them be for now - the apples are quite tasty - but I have a feeling their days are numbered.

I know I posted a pic of the old-fashioned bleeding heart before, but it just keeps getting better and better.

Non-blooming trees and shrubs are leafing out, too. This is the view out my dining room window, where the Japanese maple provides nice dappled shade. The variety is 'Bloodgood'.

For the record, I've started transplanting seedlings. The coleus is in the box on the front porch. To keep my indoor-outdoor cat from using this planter as a litter box, I laid pine cones on the surface. For some reason, cats don't like trying to dig around pine cones.

Today I also transplanted marigolds to the marigold/pole bean raised bed, and started the beans plants in paper cups. I purchased poke milkweed to go where the butterfly bush was, in the milkweed patch, and as soon as I am done here, they will go into the ground.

My ongoing problem (one of several, actually) with the dogs is they trample stuff. I finally decided they could not have the run of the yard, so have been setting up some fencing to limit their turf. To protect the bed on the south side of the house, I moved some fence panels from the removed movable fence. To eliminate their access to the raised beds and the hosta bed, I strung electric fence wire but haven't charged it yet; I'm waiting to see how the configuration works out for my convenience. So far, the dogs seem to understand that the flimsy wire fence is meant for them.

I thought the spice bush was a goner and intended to replace it. However, my source had a similar problem this past winter, so wasn't selling them yet. She showed me how to check the cambium layer for signs of life. I didn't need to, though, as the little stick of a thing is sending out a leaf. We'll see how it fares. The mountain mint might be recovering as well (see trampling dogs above). And the dill reseeded itself, sprouting only *after* I purchased more seed. Of course.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Redbud season!

Redbuds are one of my all-time favorites. They are forever linked to the first house I owned, the birth of my children (both May babies), and of course to spring. This is a spectacular year for them.

Fat bees were buzzing among the blossoms. I tried to get a pic of one, but it looks like all I captured was the blur of its wing.

After waiting for eons for spring to get here, now I can't keep up with the shrubs and trees. Each day something new is blossoming, including the North Star cherry. Out of four trees, one is blooming, one is dead, and the other two are biding their time.

Earlier today I noticed the purple-leaf sand cherry starting to bloom. By this evening, it was going full blast. Since I am going to be busy tomorrow, I didn't want to miss its glory.

It starts to leaf out while blooming, so the the delicate pink flowers are accented by the deep purple leaves. Yum!

The hosta bed has survived trampling by Clio the Big Foot, as has my old-fashioned bleeding heart. Some of the coral bells are questionable. Damn dog.

Pink seems to be the theme of this post!

And more pink! The prairie smoke is blooming (but not smoking yet). While visiting my local native plant nursery today, I asked if they had more. Not this year. Apparently, they are difficult to start.

Besides the flowering plants, other denizens of the yard are showing signs of life. The Prairie Fire crabapple that looked like a three-foot long stick when I planted it is sprouting leaves. Yes!

The 'Limelight' hydrangea is beginning to leaf out, but the true purpose of this pic is to demonstrate that sometimes things go according to plan. I'm talking about all that gout weed underneath the hydrangea. The plan called for it to fill in that area but NOT spread to other areas. We'll see how well that second part works out. BTW, the green plants among the gout weed that are not weeds are volunteer columbine. Not according to plan but I'll take it.

I've been actively discouraging the three forsythia bushes in my yard. Last spring's whack job was enough to prevent blooming this year, but I'm discovering I kind of like this dwarf version. Too bad it won't stay small.

For the record, I purchased a flat of alyssum today, 'Snow Crystals'. Some has already found its way into the big pots. I also transplanted the butterfly bush to where the azalea was. And I spot treated dandelions in the front yard. The trellises I purchased last year for the clematis are securely in place, just in the nick of time. I expect the following weeks to be split between planting seedlings and weeding. And eating asparagus!