May I say Amazing?

As we approach the end of May I’m pretty sure things couldn’t be better.  There was a moment (actually quite a few) when I was sitting in the backyard, looked about and thought to myself, ‘wow, this is friggin awesome’.  It wasn’t just one thing or another, it was the warm breeze, the scent of iris blooms, birds chirping, the wind rustling fresh foliage, flowers here and there, it was all that and it just feels great after months of seemingly endless cold.

may perennial border

Three warm days and a few rain showers ended tulip season and moved the garden into it’s blue phase with iris and aquilegia.

To be completely honest there were a few days in there when the heat was almost bad enough to say something mildly bad about too much heat, but then a quick sit in the shade fixed things.  With enough rain and sun you can almost hear things growing, and I like that.

may perennial border

When they were bulldozing the coal wastelands to build the industrial park behind our house I came across and saved two columbine plants (Aquilegia vulgaris) by digging and bringing them into the garden.  Ten years later they’ve self-sown everywhere, creating a nice blue haze.

There used to be a lull in flowers between the last tulips and first iris and roses, but by carefully buying too many plants each year for the last few years I’ve ended up filling that gap.  I shall try to keep up that effort and see what else wonderful results from overplanting.  Maybe it’s the secret to thicker hair or longer life, you never know, better to err on the side of caution since I think I saw something once about a lack of new plants being linked to excessive weight gain and cognitive decline.  Be careful is all I’m saying.

asphodeline lutea kings spear

The yellow of King’s Spear (Asphodeline lutea) is back after a couple years of too much rabbit nibbling and columbine crowding.  I like the spikes of bloom and will try and give it a little more space again.

This talk of new plants has me a little worried because work and a pile of mulch to spread has kept me too busy for my usual nursery runs.  I did manage to finish off the front yard mulching, but after bailing out eight or nine bucket of water out of the basement Saturday I told my contractor he owed me another load of mulch.  He agreed.  A new roof is nice, but when all the water is now directed to a spot just above the basement door, and the gutter is missing, and you can see water flowing into the house it can be discouraging.  Good thing mulch makes me happy.

may perennial border

All the early corydalis and scillas are yellowed and gone and with new mulch spread it looks almost suburbian neat in this garden.

Plenty of other things make me happy as well, and since many of the plenty are things which bloom in May, even the latest round of water in the house can’t dampen my spirits.

amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii is care-free in full sun and only needs a wack back to half it’s height in June to keep it from sprawling everywhere.

Even though the rain doesn’t need to fall in downpours of one or two inches it’s still worth it to have a green lawn in May rather than the beginning of drought.  Everything seems happier after a good soak, provided there’s some sun and warmth afterwards… rather than endless damp and grey.

may perennial border

With all the other blue a new blue lupine was probably unnecessary, but I wanted something to go with the red one… and of course now the red one’s not flowering…

You may be wondering how the construction is going if all this rain and water is still getting into the house, and I wish I could say we’re almost there, but we’re not.  Things are crawling along but with a contractor who is often a one or two man show, crawling is as good as it gets.  Good thing we like him and it’s always (eventually) a job well done 🙂

picea glauca pendula

With much of this end of the border bulldozed down, the weeping white spruce (Picea glauca pendula) has a chance to get the space he deserves.  Maybe the fresh mulch will keep the bulldozer from coming back!

So bit by bit I try to bring back the parts of the garden ‘touched’ by construction.  Areas are looking better but the pond was one spot I’d given up on.  There are large rocks and nearly a foot of dirt which have fallen in, but just last week everything changed.  I heard frogs singing, and then I heard more.  In the muddy, murky waters I see many frog eggs and suspect this corner of PA will soon see a tree frog population explosion.  I’m already trying to figure out what I can feed them with since I can’t imagine there’s enough whatever in this pond to feed so many future tadpoles.

garden pond tadpoles

There are hundreds of frog eggs in here, and those are just the surface ones which I can easily see!

So if all goes well this summer shall again see an abundance of baby gray tree frogs entering the garden.  Perhaps that will make up for the missing garter snakes.

garden dry stack stone wall

The stone wall is about as good as it gets.  In a moment of brilliance all the potted succulents ended up on top of the wall rather than on the deck steps.  I think I like it but it’s hard to level a pot on such ramshackle construction.

For all the rocks which came up out of the construction hole, I’m a little disappointed by how short a rock wall I was able to build.  People who garden on rocky sites are likely rolling their eyes and saying we have plenty, come get a few, but nearly all my rocks are covered by shale and fill and would require a little quarrying to get to them.  Hmmm.  I’ve heard of people who have done as much and according to my book, if someone else has tried it maybe it’s not so crazy.  Maybe I could start a ‘small backhoe campaign’ and start talking about backhoes enough that eventually someone will say ‘just get the stupid thing if that will shut you up’.  That could be fun 🙂

garden dry stack stone wall

The new wall makes a nice divider between the lawn and the meadow… otherwise known as where I mow regularly and where I don’t… 

Having a backhoe BEFORE I moved several tons of rock by hand would have been a smarter move, but if the early settlers were able to clear a field by hand and build miles of wall I think I should be able to handle a few feet.

outdoor summer succulents

The succulents will spend all summer out here, unwatered for the most part and maybe here and there a splash of liquid fertilizer will land in their pots.  Also maybe I’ll pot up another dozen or so other succulents I happen to have laying around.  If 20 pots look nice wouldn’t 30 look nicer?

So what other silliness has been going on around here… the entire winter garden is out of the house but bags of canna roots and pots of caladium corms are still waiting their turn.  Many of the deck planters have been planted and overall it’s nearly all overwintered things and not much new.  That’s good for the budget but at the moment the repotted mandevilla vine looks like a whole lot of dead, and not quite the highlight of any summer display, so maybe it will still be a few weeks before I share photos of that.

garden potager

The potager is remarkably under control for May.  Garlic and onions are growing, tomatoes have been planted, and I suspect there’s another bunny nest in the tulips.  Baby bunnies are too cute to resent.  I will tell them to keep away from the lettuce.

In some parts of the garden I think I’m overcompensating for the construction destruction.  The guilt of bulldozed and buried plants has me trying to make other areas extra-neat as I try to balance those out with areas I’ve abandoned.

chives album schoenoprasum ‘Forescate

btw chives (Allium schoenoprasum) might be my latest, latest, latest obsession.  Here’s pink ‘Forescate’ with white ‘Album’ behind.  I might have a lead on a darker variety and when I pair those with the regular lavender sort I think it will be quite nice.  Oddly I can’t rememebr the last time I ate a chive, but whatever.

Speaking of abandoned areas, the snowdrop beds are all on that list.  Maybe I’ll weed and divide things this summer, or maybe not.  These days I can call it a wild garden and don’t think anyone will judge me too harshly, plus it’s always going to be much more interesting than mulchbeds and lawn, even though 90% of my neighbors would much prefer mulchbeds and lawn rather than the excessive plantings which find their home here (the other 10% are undecided).

weedy garden

Weeds amongst the snowdrops.  A few nice things but I really need to remove the mugwort and powerwash that birch trunk!

Honestly sometimes I’m undecided if all these questionable plants and sweaty labor are changing things here for the better, but when the tadpoles come I will know they are.  Actually every new thing which comes up has me convinced it’s all for the better… except maybe poison ivy seedlings.  I can do without those.

Enjoy these last days of May, they pass far too quickly!

19 comments on “May I say Amazing?

  1. Su says:

    Love your wall with the pots. Yes, you need more.

  2. Paddy Tobin says:

    “Mulchbeds and Lawns” is a new phrase to me but a good way to describe a gardening style, I suppose. Your garden has certainly exploded with growth in recent times and looks very well indeed. Amsonia hubrichtii takes my eye especially and it is one I would love to have do well here. We grow it but not in large enough number to make the impact I would like – it has been slow to increase with me. Perhaps the answer is simply to buy more plants!

    • bittster says:

      The amsonia seems to thrive in our hot summers… or at least it doesn’t mind our summers. I’m sure in your climate there’s something much more obliging which could take its place. The foliage is nice but I trim the whole thing back by half early June so that it doesn’t take up the entire border.
      btw it’s 11am and 27C and hopefully in another hour or so I’ll get outside for the day’s labor. I shall hydrate beforehand!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        Goodness, I’d hide indoors at that heat. Just too much! Enjoy the day. I must get moving myself.

  3. Annette says:

    You may, Frank, with a gorgeous, lush garden like this you have every right to be proud. It came on so well and wow, that potager looks so pretty and well organized. Glad you got plenty of rain too as this is so important in spring. We haven’t had any for a while and the grass is starting to look brown. Enjoy your little paradise and good luck with your projects.

    • bittster says:

      Hi Annette! I hope you’ve had a little rain or are at least prepared for a drier garden and more pool time. Here it’s dried out a bit but will hold on for another week or two unless the temperatures pop up to furnace level. Dry or not enjoy June!

  4. Cathy says:

    I had no idea there were different varieties of chives. You must pick one of those gorgeous chive flowers, shake it a bit to remove any insects, and then eat it, there and then, while admiring the others. Yum! Although this may fuel your obsession! I really love that stone wall with all the succulents on it. What a great way to show them off. Is that dark red leafy shrub behind your lupin a Physocarpus? Lupins are short-lived here and the seedlings are often victim to some pest or other. But aquilegias are great, the more the better! Lots of good things to look forward to as well! 😃

    • bittster says:

      Just for the record I did sample a chive bloom and yes! It’s a tasty treat and makes chive season even better 😉
      The dark shrub is a cotinus which has been pruned back, so no smoke this year. Fingers are crossed for the lupine’s future. They rarely last for long and this one seems less than enthusiastic about settling in and growing vigorously. Perhaps if I can get them through the summer there’s some hope for the cooler seasons reinvigorating them, but in the meantime I’m letting a few seeds form… just in case lupines are a vigorous self-seeder in my garden and I just don’t know it! Haha, I guess I can dream

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Looking beautiful, per usual, Frank. Yay to the intrepid frogs! They are happy with any vernal pool, so the mud and rocks are no problem to them. Guess they are helping to put cleaning it out further down the list…more fun to do later on when you won’t get wet and cold. 😉
    Love the new wall and its succulent decor. Perfect spot for them to summer.
    I’m amazed how your boxwood hedge has recovered, I wondered if it would when I saw it listing. Another miracle you have wrought. Hope your gutters are replaced soon, I would have run out of patience long ago, but playing nice is rather important when you need the job done!
    Chives have bloom colors, who knew? I chop the leaves and freeze them for winter use. Great in omelets, soups, potato dishes and garnish. Tell the cook. 😉

    • bittster says:

      The chive blooms are a new garden treat for me, thanks for the tip!
      But… nearly three weeks later and I have yet to see a tadpole. I guess there will be down moments through the year, but for me no snakes and no tadpoles is worrisome. On the plus side we have plenty of shrews? I find their trails through the mulch and often come across them doing their shrewish explorations. Beetles and worms don’t stand a chance around here and I suspect the shrews have taken out a few of the garter snakes as well. It’s frightening to see a tiny shrew viciously attacking the tail end of a good sized snake but I suppose that’s nature. Hopefully the snakes can find refuge in the stone walls.
      Siding is in progress this week. It makes things look much more promising!

  6. Lisa Rest says:

    Absolutely amazing, Frank! All the shades of green, so lush, and I am a big fan of your rock wall. Wonderful to hear about the return of your intrepid frogs.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Lisa. I love rock walls, and this might be one of the best things to come out of all the construction (even better than a large closet , but not far behind large windows into the garden 😉

  7. pbmgarden says:

    It’s wonderful! Every bit of it. Looks good at every turn. I really love your Amsonia (maybe I’ll try it again). And your lupines! A first for me, this year I have many seedlings at long last but so far no lupine flowers. Enjoy your garden.

    • bittster says:

      Oh? I need to try some lupine from seed. I think they would be much happier as biennials and just skip the whole summer heat thing. I’ve always had trouble getting them to sprout though so great job!
      The amsonia is a nice soft effect, but I always trim it back by half after flowering to keep it from sprawling everywhere. Also I rarely get the fall foliage color, I’m not sure why…

  8. Lisa Bowman says:

    You certainly may say AMAZING, shout it out. Such color, texture and mulch at this time of year is a winning combo. The frogs are heralding your hard work. Oh I would be so disappointed with the contractors if water entered the basement. Not a good thing. A good thing is the lineup on your rock wall. You can’t get too many plants on the wall. I love the rocks. I live in a valley with lots of sand and clay, not many rocks. If i could dig rocks I would. I too would like a small backhoe. They have those cute little ones that make trenches for waterpipes. I have coveted them when I see them being used. I think about how easy it would be to dig out overgrown shrubs and to plant new shrubs and trees. A machine of dreams. I think you should purchase one. Have a great weekend.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Lisa! Yes, imagine having one of those little backhoes. I think we both need one 😉
      How is our garden doing? I’m missing the updates but I bet it’s just doing its thing. Hope you’re not too hot.

  9. I think we’re all agreed that it’s definitely amazing. Especially after the strange weather we’ve all had. It was so cold herevat the beginning of this week, we turned the heat back on. Then 2 days of rain and it looks like 80°s are on their way. I love how dense and lush it all looks in your garden. And those blue columbines are superb. As a lover of rocks and walls, yours looks wonderful. Anyone who’s ever built one knows it is time consuming and not nearly as easy as the finished product would suggest. And it is a perfect staging ground for all the potted succulents.

    • bittster says:

      I think at one point during the stone-moving I looked at the in-progress wall and rolled my eyes thinking about the rock-work at your place. Mine is surely a more ‘rustic’ style lol
      Things have dried out a bit but it’s still been an excellent spring and summer is looking good as well. Today there’s humidity though and I vaguely recalled hating that part of summer since it wakes up all the blackflies…

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