Saturday, July 25, 2020

New neighbor

Earlier this week (Monday?), I heard the new neighbor behind the privet mowing, so I went over to introduce myself. I hope 'Tyler' did not think I was too nosy, but I did eyeball all the work he and his partner have done so far in their backyard: new shed, dead tree removal, drainage moat, fencing, etc. We discussed the privet: Tyler has plans to cut it all down to about hip height, removing the undesirables along the way. Huzzah! He sounds plant savvy. Later in the week, when I went to "mow" no man's land with the string trimmer, I discovered he had mowed that area for me; all I had to do was trim along the fence. I may now be the crazy lady in back, but I am happy to have Tyler and his partner as my new neighbors.

One area I have focused on this week is the south side of the house. Longtime readers of this blog may recall that the latest incarnation of this bed was as a prairie sampler. That did not work out very well, but there are still a few remnants of that effort, mostly aster. The dogs dug some massive holes along the foundation, so besides weeding, I am filling in those caverns.

The plan is to transplant the Northern Sea Oats and bee balm in the bed along the house; the two of them can spread to their hearts content. Opposite the house, along the fence will go the aster and the remaining prairie plants, plus iron weed, rudbekia, and coneflower, to be transplanted from raised beds. But first, bed preparation.

More recently, readers may remember that I tried to kill off the weeds along the fence by covering the area with semi-clear plastic. That did not work, so now I am using newspaper weighted down with cedar boards that fell off the raised bed frames when I moved them. This idea should work better.

Several years ago, I impulsively purchased a pagoda dogwood with no clear idea of where it would go or what I would do with it. Only after installation did I read somewhere that to achieve the pagoda shape, the tree must be properly pruned. My usual MO is to wait-and-see, which looks like may be a good strategy in this case, as the little tree appears to be layering just fine, with no assistance from me.

(The rainbow colored shed in the background is proof that spray paint that claims to adhere to ALL surfaces is lying.)

A few more pics from around the yard:

I may have to wait to remove the morning glory trellises, but I did something else to improve the view. After finding myself slouching in order to see anything, I trimmed up the nearby redbud tree. Much better.

My daughter came by this morning to get more plants for her yard: coneflower, rudbekia, yucca, butterflyweed, silver grass, more aster. Her car looked FULL when she left. Her soil is sandier than mine, her yard smaller and more shaded. She has a good eye for design and color, so I expect the results to look spectacular.

Saturday, July 18, 2020


It is not unusual for storm systems to slip past Fort Wayne, either to the north or the south. Very frustrating to watch on Weather Bug. This past week we caught a break, though: a solid inch one day, 3/4 of an inch several days later. It's not enough but better than nothing.

The temps have been more moderate (except for today when we are under a heat advisory), so I've continued working on the garden downsizing plan. All the raised bed frames that I am going to move right now have been moved. I like how they look scattered here and there around shrubs and other plantings. It changes the view.

It will take a while (and a LOT more rain) before I clear away the contents of the raised beds. Because of last summer's neglect, they are full of weeds and quack grass. I want to make sure as much as possible of that detritus goes into the trash can. Also, I am toying with the idea of using the soil as modeling clay, as described here.

Speaking of views, I did not foresee how much time I would spend on the deck, contemplating the yard, and how much the morning glory trellises would block my ability to see what I am contemplating. My goal with the morning glory was to add more shade to the deck, but I'm not sure that will happen, at least not to the extent I had hoped. The jury is still out, but I'm now contemplating Virginia creeper instead, as it will climb the posts and not need any trellis. Has any of you deliberately grown Virginia creeper on a pergola?

While wandering the yard, I snapped a few pics just for fun; the purple coneflower continues to come on strong. This bed was formerly known as the asparagus bed and its walls are of concrete blocks. Over the years, I have tried growing a variety of flowers in the holes of the blocks. This year I chose zinnias and sunflowers.

The only reason this bee is in focus is it was still asleep on the bee balm.

I blocked the north and south sides of the house from the dogs because of their digging and trampling. While watering the above mentioned bed, I discovered this hole in the middle.

And while eyeballing the milkweed field (an area that continues to be neglected), I found this hole. I can't wall off all the garden beds but I am sorely tempted.

The cup plant is blooming. The smoke bushes are not, or just barely. Next up is the rudbeckia, which is taller than the coneflower, something I had not anticipated.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Not so hot

We are having a reprieve from the 90-degree temps, for a while at least. It still feels ridiculously hot, especially in the sun. Once in a while, a popup storm sprinkles the yard, but otherwise it is bone dry.

The purple coneflower is starting to come on. The smooth hydrangea is full of white blossoms; 'Limelight' looks great but no blooms yet. The bee balm is loaded with bees, but other than a few paper whites and a small brown thing, I have not seen any butterflies this year.

The hummingbirds have been scarce as well, which apparently is not unusual when the females are feeding their young. The babies get a regurgitated mixture of nectar and insects, and momma does one-stop-shopping at blossoms for the raw ingredients. I guess no males have staked out my yard as their turf, either.

Saturday, July 04, 2020


When I look at the weather forecast, all I see are days and days of high temperatures, over 90 for forever. Some of those days include a "chance of rain" which means none. I've had to drag out the hose in the evening to encourage the droopers. It is only July; what will August be like?

It's too hot and dry to try to transplant anything, but there is plenty of other work to do. I have a few plants that I regret, in this case trumpet vine and forsythia, that I am eliminating by cutting back, then applying herbicide. The stuff I am using, Ortho Poison Ivy and Tough Brush Killer, doesn't seem to work very fast, but it did eliminate the poison ivy growing under the gold mop (plus a few hyacinth that were inadvertently sacrificed). I may try applying it to mulberry samplings, too.

After cutting back the trumpet vine on the inside of my privacy fence, I ventured into "no man's land", the area between the fence and my (now new) neighbor's privet hedge, to see if there was trumpet vine growing on that side. I was never able to convince the previous owner of the hedge to do anything to it, so I pruned back my side to keep the branches off the utility lines (cable and phone, not electrical) and allow me room to cut the grass and weeds. Last summer, though, I let the privet go because of my hip.

I have yet to meet my new neighbors, let alone discuss the privet, but initially they seemed to be making an effort to keep that area mowed. Then they gave up, perhaps after someone (I'm guessing the underground utility guy) pruned some branches, then let them lay where they fell. When I stepped through the gate this week, I found what looked like a Canada thistle farm.

It took me several morning sessions, but I cleared out the fallen branches, whacked the weeds, and "mowed" (with my string trimmer). The hedge needs some attention, however, as there is honeysuckle (the bad kind) and mulberry samplings (also the bad kind) growing there. The branches need to be pruned to protect the lines. Then I will borrow a truck to haul all the detritus to the compost site. Maybe while I am doing all this, I will get to meet the neighbors and try once again to broach the subject of what to do with the privet.

The west side of the house is as finished as it is going to be for now. We're all set for the AC to be serviced. I want to move the lilies sometime and fill that last bit with pebbles too.

I keep changing my mind about where to move the lilies, but once I get rid of one of the forsythias, they can join their brethren in a small bed of mixed lilies, like this one.

I have seen squirrels and chipmunks around the yard (no rabbits as of late), but I have also been finding dead voles in the back lawn when I pick up dog poop. Initially I suspected my outdoor cat, but Finn usually eats what he catches. From observing the dogs, I think maybe they are the ones trying to eliminate these pests. Good dogs!

A perennial (heh, heh) mystery is why some yarrow in my yard blooms while some does not. I gave my SO some yarrow and he experiences the same thing. I thought yarrow liked full sun, but now I have my doubts as the flowering plants receive afternoon shade while the non-bloomers are in the sun all day long. Anyone share this experience?

'Betty Corning' is just about done, but the 'Avant-garde' clematis is still blooming. My SO and I have been discussing alternative methods of supporting these vines, as they overwhelm everything I have tried so far. Maybe part of an antenna tower? Milkweed and bee balm is starting - they each have their distinctive aromas.