Thursday, June 28, 2018

Around the yard

The weather is going to turn hot, hot, HOT for a few days. Even with AC, I get to feeling logy when it sizzles outside. I'm just glad it doesn't last long. Why do people move south when they retire? Beats me.

I think I did a blog post once bemoaning the views from my windows and deck and in general around the yard. While those views aren't necessarily a lot better, I find there are some that provide simple joy. Not something one would see in BH&G, but then the yard is for ME, not a general audience.

It also occurred to me that I usually take photos of plants and flowers head on, face to face. That strategy shows the plant but not the plant in its environs.

The tao of some views is more difficult to capture than others.

Anyway, back to the head on photos. I've come to the conclusion that one difference between tiger lilies and daylilies is the tiger lilies look down while the daylilies look up. Maybe they are looking at each other?

The hollyhocks are for dyeing with, but I wasn't sure about how to harvest the blossoms. Turns out that is not a problem, as the blossoms curl up and fall off. I just need to pick them up every day or two and put them on a screen in the garage to dry.

My container experiments this year are growing crocosmia and penstemon in pots. The crososmia grow from corms, so once they started to send up shoots, they took off.

The penstemon is a perennial, so this is its first year sleep. I had an extra hibiscus, so that has gone into a pot, too. I'll move the pots into the garage for the winter.

The pole beans are starting to blossom.

The dill is blooming, too. Looks like fireworks.

I couldn't decide which 'Luna Red' hibiscus photo to use, so I'm posting both of them. The blossom is almost bigger than the plant, which is about 15 inches tall.

I started the hibiscus plants from seed this past spring, so was not expecting to see any blooms this year. I am happy to be wrong!

This Japanese beetle is on an aster, although its favorite garden plant is the hollyhocks. What a pest!

Last night I mowed and tonight I watered selectively, so now I can hunker down for the weekend and let the heat pass on by. Stay cool!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Odds and ends

While I have been moving away from growing food, there are still a few food plants in my yard and garden. Despite my attack on the asparagus, it continues to produce, so I am enjoying that, tossed with a little olive oil and roasted in a hot oven for about ten minutes (the asparagus, not me). Then there is the rhubarb patch, which provides pie for me and mordant for dyeing yarn. And there are some pole beans, just about ready to bloom.

I keep contemplating eliminating the "orchard" but it is low on the priority list. The birds usually get the sweet cherries, but leave these North Star tart ones for me. Another pie producing plant. (Can you tell I like pie?)

Instead of dumping out the "mother plant" I use each year to create more coleus for the front porch, I pruned it up a bit and added it to the tableau.

Coleus are such a nice foliage plant and tolerant of shade that I decided to plant some under the purple-leaf smokebush. It is late in the season for purchasing annuals, so there wasn't much selection. 'Pineapple' was close enough. No pic yet.

The common milkweed in the yard is going to town. The neighbor's privet was providing an almost cloying aroma last week, now it is the milkweed, which fortunately is a tiny bit more subtle. I've seen a few random butterflies recently, but no monarchs.

The blossoms of this Hydrangea arborscens, a.k.a. smooth hydrangea, are not very showy. The plant also has a tendency to die back to the ground during the winter. My 'Limelight' takes a heavy pruning and keeps on producing, so I'm assuming once this baby is established, it will fulfill its potential.

And an early appearance by a coneflower.

I am STILL installing transplants, but the end is in sight. Last year I planted some butterfly weed next to the silvergrass; one clump survived, so I tried again, plus added some coneflower and rudbekia. I also put an ornamental fence around the grouping, in hopes of deterring the dogs. I've also been planting a variety of natives in raised beds, theoretically so they can get bigger and stronger before going in their final resting places; they just aren't quite ready to complete.

And I have been weeding, weeding, weeding. More rain is in the forecast, plus higher temps, so I am "making hay while the sun shines". Ooh! I just saw a monarch. Huzzah!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

What view?

My house offers very few opportunities to sit and enjoy the view. That is one reason I added a four-season room, so I could look out the windows at my (usually very weedy) yard. I took advantage of this most when working from home. After I retired, I spent less and less time in the "den", though. Recently I rearranged the furniture to encourage more viewing pleasure. Too bad I can barely see anything.

It doesn't help that I replaced the bistro table and chairs with a couch, so now I am sitting lower.

I planted the two Juniperus x pfitzeriana 'Sea Green' shrubs with an Alberta spruce conica in 2012. The plant tags led me to believe the junipers would grow to the bottom of the windows, like they were in 2016. I expected the Alberta spruce to get a couple of feet taller than the junipers. I thought it would make a nice tableau, especially flanked by 'Betty Corning' clematis.





So what happened?!?

I'd like to prune the junipers back a bit, but so far have not found any sound advice on how best to do that. They are protecting the Alberta spruce nicely, so there are no dead or brown areas on it, but I would like to actually be able to see the poor thing. And I'd like to be able to see out the windows of the den while I am sitting on the couch. Any suggestions? Besides removing them?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Lean in

Three inches of rain last week, three more this week. Needless to say, I have not had to water anything except for a few pots and the coleus on the front porch. And everything is growing like gangbusters, including weeds. Not everything has been growing upright, however.

One of my favorite ways to round up horizontals that should be vertical are these short fence panels that Home Depot sells. They can be connected, but I am usually rearranging them to suit current needs so have never tried chaining them together. They look nice but are relative unobtrusive.

All the hollyhocks in this photo are growing from a single clump, some upright, some not.

A plastic post and little baling twine corrects that, more or less.

One reason I am growing hollyhocks is that they can be used for dyeing fiber. Depending on the mordant and modifier, dark hollyhock flowers produce colors ranging from mauve to deep purple. I have high hopes for these black blossoms.

As lovely as these look in the garden, I need to start harvesting and drying the blossoms soon.

Another reason to plant hollyhocks is they act as a trap crop for Japanese beetles.

While the tuteurs are holding up well with the clematis (or holding up the clematis well), this particular 'Betty Corning' is out of control. But then, so is the Juniperus x pfitzeriana 'Sea Green' it is sprawled across. I've been referring to these shrubs as juniper chinensis, but that is a rather generic term. In order to figure out exactly what they are, I had to search out an old photo that included the plant tag, then enlarge it. Despite the fuzziness, I am pretty sure I have the correct name now.

Something else that is too horizontal are some of the hostas. During the recent heat wave, one of my dogs took to cooling off in the hosta bed. Clio likes to bake in the sun, then search out a shady place, sort of like sitting in a sauna, then jumping in an icy lake. Maybe she is Norwegian.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The mulch pile is GONE

I started taking a series of photos of the pile of wood chips in the driveway as we chipped (HA!) away at it, but failed to keep up. Just moving all that mulch was work enough. Yesterday my SO finished it off while I made an semi-emergency run to pick up my granddaughter from her summer program (stomach bug). What a relief to have that gone! Maybe the neighbors will stop commenting on it now.

Meanwhile, more plants are blooming. I purchased this 'Chicago Lustre' viburnum because I was assured it would help the 'Blue Muffin' set fruit. I don't know how that could happen when they bloom at different times. I know I should just let that go, but it still bugs me.

At least the 'Chicago Lustre' doesn't smell like something died.

The good old 'Betty Corning' clematis vines are going to town. The tuteurs are doing a good job holding them up although I still needed to wrap some twine around them to keep them from going too far astray. I was more successful with this one than its mate, which is sprawling across the nearby juniper chinensis.

The 'Avant-garde' clematis is not blooming yet, but has already outgrown its own (shorter) tuteur. I forgot that it gets so tall. Maybe next year I'll provide it with something to crawl up once it reaches the limit of the tutear.

This hosta receives more sun than the rest, so it is blooming first. It is in the bed with the yucca that won't die, under the sandcherry. I think this variety is 'Francis Williams'.

The only long-lived coreopsis I have found is 'Zagreb' but this bit of 'Tequila Sunrise' persists nevertheless.

The smokebush shrubs are smokin'! The purple leaf one by the house almost always looks dramatic...

... while 'Golden Spirit' is more subdued. This is the second season for the latter, so maybe when it grows big and strong like its cousin, its "smoke" will make me go WOW. And if not, I still love the foliage.

Believe it or not, I *still* have not finished transplanting, but I'm working on it. Last night I repotted a few that I think need to be a bit bigger before going into the ground and took inventory of the rest. Despite the weather, my neglect, and several dog attacks, there are few casualties. This weekend promises to be a HOT one, so it will be a few more days before I complete this task.

Meanwhile, I did some pruning of redbuds. How old are these trees? According to this blog, I planted them in 2011, which makes them older than I realized. It seems like just yesterday they looked like sticks!

Sunday, June 10, 2018


The weather is just not cooperating with my gardening efforts. Too hot, too humid, or like today, too wet. I did clear out the asparagus bed and planted coneflower and rudbekia there. Now I am looking critically at other difficult-to-manage areas of the yard and garden to determine what might be easier to maintain. Like the "orchard" and the rings of castle block around the redbuds. I love my yard but sometimes it is overwhelming.

The leggy annuals are not putting on much of a show (yet), but the random blooms do look perty.

Giant Scarlet-Red Zinnia

Dyers Coreopsis

Torch (Mexican) Sunflower

The lance-leaf coreopsis is supposed to reseed itself, but this year there is just one lone patch. I *suppose* if I kept that area weeded better, there would be more. I think mulch may interfere with the reseeding, too.

Ignore the burdock

I really did weed the south side of the house but somehow missed the thistle growing up in this little patch of shasta daisy. It is one of the bedraggled-by-the-rain flowers.

Ignore the thistle

Another bedraggled specimen is the Stella d' Oro daylilies. They are busting out all over town, though, so hopefully mine will pull through soon.

Put the rain on 'pause' please

The goutweed, a.k.a. bishop's weed, is doing its thing. This bed is relatively isolated so (fingers crossed) it won't become a pest. However, if it keeps the weeds at bay, maybe letting is spread is not such a bad thing. (Can you tell I am tired of weeding?)

Soon the utility boxes will be hidden

This is its third season. First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap.

Seed on!

We were hoping to eliminate the weed pile in the driveway today but RAIN. I've been keeping up on the mowing and not much else. Right now the forecast is for a wet week, but hopefully we can get some things accomplished in between showers.