Deck Season

I’m about done with this gardening thing, it’s just so much work!

deck container planters

The deck awaits.  Cool drinks, evening sunsets, it all sounds so much better than slaving away in the garden.

We have yet to hit our traditional summertime combo of brutally high temperatures and endless rainless weeks, and for once it seems our climate has decided to make it easy on the garden and gardener.  The garden has been enjoying excellent growing weather and perfect transplanting conditions, and I think I’ve done more this year than ever to shape up the yard.  The deck has been no exception.  Overwintered tropicals came out of their garage storage earlier than ever and containers were put together way before the usual Memorial Day rush.  I like the way it came out this year (which was not the case last summer).

deck container planters

My biggest splurge this year, a blue sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) which I snapped up the minute I saw it.  I was hoping it would take over this whole corner of the deck but for now it’s more intent on sending out more and more of its beautiful flowers.  At least the self-sown petunias on the left make a nice color compliment.

In my opinion the whole point of annuals is you can try something completely different each year, enjoy an entire season of noncommittal color, and then count on winter to completely clean the slate for next season.  For the most part I started with a clean slate, but this year I tried to bring in a few new things rather than just sit in the rut I felt like I’d been settling in to.

deck container planters

Calibrachoas will always earn a spot in the deck containers because of their unending bloom.  As long as the tobacco budworms hold off on their late season attack and I get a little fertilizer on them, they’ll keep going like this for weeks!

My ‘ outside the box’ move didn’t last much longer than putting down the traditional purple fountain grasses and substituting with a couple new coleus.  Lots more foliage this year rather than flowers, but for the most part, since I overwinter so many plants, I’m bound to always be stuck in at least some part of the box.

deck container planters

If there was a color theme this year it was orange and purple… sort of… I’m never much good at sticking to a theme, plus I’m always far too easy on the self-sown annuals which show up, such as the pink petunias and red snapdragons in the back.

Cannas and coleus are back this year and doing great.  The coleus were all new purchases made to replace those I was too lazy to bring in last fall.  Lesson learned with that but now I’ll have to make all new decisions on which ones to take in when frost threatens.  Experience shows it will be all of them 🙂

deck container planters

The far corner of the deck.  The cannas are just starting, coleus are already too big, the Virginia creeper is creeping over from the other wall, and who would have thought I’d like white salvia?

Since May the plan has been to re-do some of the unfinished ends of the deck.  You know how the goes.  As of July 11th there’s been no action, which isn’t world ending, but it does mean I haven’t yet hooked up the drip lines which should go to each planted container.  The regular rains have been my savior but as things grow that won’t last.  I need to get things going!

deck container planters

A little bit of a mess here but the succulents and cacti are enjoying the regular rain.  Usually they get nothing but disrespect from me and are lucky to get a haphazard splash from the hose once a month… I wonder if I need a new cactus… I’ve been good all spring 🙂

By all estimates I have about another week left in me before I throw in the towel on whatever projects didn’t get done this year.  All work and no play is making me an extremely dull gardener and summer is too short for dullness.

Gotta go, weeds await!

Garden Touring with the Back Mountain Bloomers

I love a good garden tour, and I’m nosy as well, so for the life of me I can’t figure out why it’s taken me so long to finally take advantage of the Back Mountain Bloomers bi-annual garden tour.  The Back Mountain Bloomers are a local gardening group and since 2003 they’ve been raising money for a “Rails to Trails” program with the proceeds from their tour.  There are displays, demonstrations, and most importantly open gardens!

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I can’t imagine how much work goes into getting a garden ready for a tour.  This one was immaculate and perfect, and it sounded like months of work went into getting the hardscape and plantings ready for the day.  I believe nearly all the work was done by the homeowners, which was even more impressive when you consider all the stonework in the backyard.

The gardens ranged from small lots to large, intimate gardens to professionally landscaped, and even a small farm.  I think it’s great such a range of gardeners opened their yards for a good cause.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A yard for entertaining.  There’s sun and shade seating, lawn for activities, a pool to the left and a hot tub to the right.  I can easily picture a late night bonfire with kids and grandkids all over the place.

The tour was run like clockwork, with volunteers welcoming you at each home, giving a little background to each garden, pointing out the highlights, suggesting a route through the yard, and answering questions at the demonstration or information stands.  We didn’t expect to take up the whole day but between it all (and I admit we were kind of dawdlers) we just barely finished up the seventh garden at the 4:00 cutoff.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A spacious yard with a house that opens up onto a patio, which blends right into the landscape.  The natural exposed bedrock was left as is and I think it makes a fantastic statement.

There were crowds at spots and at a few of the gardens the parking took a little patience, but that’s to be expected when 400 or so of your neighbors stop by for a look around the yard.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I do like a nice stone ledge.

Of course there’s inspiration as well.  Gardens which consider space and repetition and enclosure make for wonderful touring and offer up ideas you can take with you,  but I’ll leave that to the more disciplined gardeners.  I myself would never be able to show such restraint in color or planting… mine is a collector mentality 🙂

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A colorful way to make a small slope interesting and relatively low maintenance.  I’m also a fan of the gravel, even though most people seem to want to go formal with concrete or stone.

Finished perfection is great but I prefer a garden with a few messes, with all kinds of things here and there and with projects started and gardens filling in.  The Dyers farm (a name we completely made up) felt like that kind of place.  The owner (or at least the one who gardened) was demonstrating her dyeing technique on the grounds of a small farm, complete with farmhouse, shaded porch, barns, outbuildings, gardens, and even a few paddocks filled with various animals.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Natural wools in the various stages of processing, spinning, and dyeing.  The technique was being demonstrated and there was even a dye garden filled with the plants used to get this range of colors.

I can barely keep my lawn mowed, yet here was a whole manicured farmstead with animals to tend and gardens to nurture (and I’m sure protect, this is varmint country!)

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I love a silo.  Not everyone has a silo, plus look at that sky!  The weather was perfect for the tour.

I’ll spare you the many photos I took either of the silo, or the garden with silo as backdrop or silo photo bomb.  Kevin was with me on this trip and he’s always up for a good laugh, so of course the silo became the running joke of our day.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A perfectly tended ‘mirror garden’ with both ends reflecting the same design and plantings.  Not too shabby, and this was only a part of the grounds and gardens.

The day wound down much faster than we expected, and to round it out we hit the lake.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

For this garden the plants take a back seat to the water view and the relatively new lake cottage.

This was a garden where the designer was in charge.  A swathe of blue hydrangeas backed up the house, and summer color filled the front, but the highlight was the upper deck which offered a panoramic view of the lake.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Did I mention that in addition to demonstrations, each tour locale had a garden-party-ready table setting on display?  They did, and I’m sure most of them were put to good use at the end of this busy day.

We finished the tour a little off-lake at a quite, shaded wildlife garden filled with vegetables, shrubs, and flowers, and plenty of plants for the birds and bees.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A no-lawn front yard with tapestry of plants coming together to cover the ground.  Probably not low maintenance, but surely more interesting than the mind-numbing routine of lawn mowing.

Although we were anxious to continue on to a well deserved sit down meal (with appropriate summer beverage of course) I still managed to go on (for likely too long) with the Audubon representative about my own wildlife and invasive plant joys and woes.  It was a nice way to wrap up the day and just like everyone else we spoke with, they seemed more than happy to listen to and answer any questions.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Straw-bale gardening, where plants are grown directly in the decaying bale… but the real reason for this photo is to shame me into reconsidering how I grow my garlic.  It’s not nearly as healthy looking as these!

The outing was fun, the open gardens were great, but I learned two important things which I wasn’t entirely expecting.  The first is I enjoy balancing rocks.  If you have no idea what that means, give it a quick search or click >here< and it’s self explanatory.  It’s something I picked up at one of the demonstrations.  The second is a bit more serious.  As I visited garden after garden and saw what talented gardeners were putting together and enjoying plants, it made me realize that I might have a problem.  I could possibly have too many plants and have successfully been in denial by surrounding myself with other equally obsessed people.  I like those people… a lot… but are they just enabling me?  Could be, but I can’t think straight now.  I’ve got more to plant, and need to figure out where to fit a silo in!

Have a great weekend 🙂

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.4.17

Its mildly disturbing how quickly the weeks roll by, but once again it’s Tuesday and time to check in on this year’s view.  This week marks a new month, a definite turn to summer, and for those in the US it’s Independence day so bring on the picnics and barbecues and fireworks 🙂

street border

A lush, robust Tuesday view.  We have not wanted for water this year and many of the plants are bigger than I’ve ever seen.  The bugs are thrilled as well, and I don’t recall any other year which had this much  buzzing and flitting and fluttering .

I’m declaring this the year of the lily in my garden since it seems as if bulbs all over are putting out more blooms than ever.  I have special to me seedlings which have surprised me with their first flowers but I also have some of the fancier hybrids which have finally settled in.

lilium red velvet

Lilium ‘Red Velvet’.  It may not show well in the garden because of its dark, saturated color, but check out that dark, saturated color!

The Asiatic hybrids are some of the most popular of the early lilies, but I’m not all that crazy about the shorter, upright facing forms.  I like the tall downward facing ones, and if I had more room I think I could easily collect a few… hmmmm… new bed idea?

lilium red velvet

‘Red Velvet’ is in its second year here and about five feet tall.  That’s an excellent eye level flower for me, and perfect for close inspection.

Now I won’t go on about the scarlet lily beetle, since as of yet they have not reached our little valley, but for those of you afflicted by this pest I extend my sympathies.  I dread the day they reach here and that will likely be the year the lilies are given away to better homes.  I’ll just grow sunflowers if it comes to that.

street border

The mailbox is destined to be engulfed with sunflowers this summer (they’re the big leaves in the center).  No idea what kind they are other than birdfood leftovers, but I do know they’ll be awesome 🙂

The street side of the border is beginning to show some color again as the lavender colored perovskia, pink coneflowers (Echinacea), and a lonely yellow rudbeckia open up.

street border

Weedy or wildflowery?  If I ever get around to mulching I’ll try to neaten up the first foot or so of the edge so it looks like I planned all these plantings… which I didn’t 😉

A few years ago I tried adding a few named varieties of Echinacea purpurea to the border… well actually it was just two, and neither were the more exotically colored forms which you see out today… the plants seeding around now are just more of the average form, which in my opinion are still awesome, but don’t be fooled into thinking you need every seedling which comes up.  I rip out plenty each year, and if I were smarter I’d do it again now while they’re in bloom in order to select out the smaller, less exciting flower forms.

echinacea coneflower

Sometimes it amazes me that flowers this nice just grow all by themselves in some midwestern prairie.

As you probably know, these coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are North American natives and not far removed from the wild forms which dot the prairie landscape.  For a minute I might ask myself why I bother with other more troublesome primadonnas from landscapes far removed.

echinacea coneflower

More coneflowers

Have I mentioned spring and now early summer have been perfectly watered?  They have, and the hydrangeas and pretty much everything except for a few iris and dahlias are looking all the better for it.  Plants are lush this year and on top of that it seems all the good bugs are swarming while the bad are sparse.  You know that won’t last, but for now the only thing which seems too lush are a few of the ornamental grasses and this Eryngium.

eryngium

Maybe it’s just early but this normally steely blue and gray Eryngium (species unknown) is just mostly green *yawn*… we will see how it progresses…

The late planting of annuals is also a work in progress although I have high hopes for a later season of full plants and bold colors… if not entirely tasteful or well thought out colors 🙂

mixed border annuals

The newest bed expansion is still filling in.  I believe there’s already plenty here and just needs to fill in, but it makes me anxious to see open ground in July.  

I guess the only thing left work-wise for this summer is mulch.  I couldn’t garden without mulch and this year I’m treating myself to a load of shredded bark mulch rather than a temporary bandage of grass clippings or shredded leaves (which were used up elsewhere months ago).  This time of year I only cover the outer most foot or two of beds since the inner sections are already covered in plants.  It’s not that I wouldn’t mind mulch there as well, but for as much as I plant and replant, this perfect coating of shredded neatness would be dug in and over within a few months and for me that doesn’t sound like a worth-it kind of investment.

rose campion lychnis

A common upright sedum with a few small up and coming coleus and a patch of rose campion (Lychnis coronata).  To me a sunny garden without sedum is just nonsense.  

So that’s a pretty full Tuesday View.  As usual thanks go to Cathy at Words and Herbs, and I invite everyone to give her site a visit to see what her view and others around the world look like this week.  It’s always a treat and I’m sure they probably mulched weeks ago.  Happy fourth, and have a great week!

Around Back

It’s been a wonderful spring with reliable rain, even temperatures, and no extreme weather.  This is enough to spoil a gardener and make him forget the usual drought and plague which usual hit about this time of year.  Delphinium would be my poster child for weather gone wrong, and in a normal year would lay in a storm beaten heap well before the end of June.

delphinium

The delphinium this year have been exceptional.  Even though this photo is a few days old they’re still gracing this corner of the porch with two foot long trusses of (still upright) bloom.

So I couldn’t help but gloat a little over the delphinium, but the real point to this post is to show a little of the backyard and hopefully impress someone with how busy I’ve been.  There’s a whole other garden back there and sometimes my limited attention span never makes it past the Tuesday view of the front street border 😉

rosa Black Forest

First stop is the tropical garden alongside the South side of the house.  Our neighbor has stopped commenting about the “black, dead eyes’ which she sees every time she looks out the kitchen window.  I’m guessing she’s either finally lost her soul to the Queen of the Prairie statue or she’s too distracted by the overwhelming awesomeness of the ‘Black Forest’ rose.

Once into the back yard the most prominent feature is the kid’s play set.  It may look romantically functional in photos, but in reality it’s become too weak and shaky, and not quite what 9 and 11 year olds look for in outdoor entertainment.

old playset

Nine years of noble service but at this point I’m worried a kid will come crashing down through a weak floorboard.

An executive decision was made to retire the play set.

old playset

The end of an era.  I remember opening the carton on the day we bought it and thinking, mmmm all cedar… some day this is going to make a cozy bonfire… I guess that day has finally come.

Between ripping down the old set and figuring out what to do with the site, several weeks passed.  Another executive decision determined that the budding gymnast needed a bar to do acrobatics off of, so off to the internet.  In the meantime summer came.

stewartia

The stewartia tree is fantastic this year and surprisingly enough the native bumblebees are as thrilled with this Japanese (or Korean, or Chinese… not really sure) tree’s flowers as I am.  You can see a bumblebee butt sticking out of the middle flower.

While working out the swing project (which as expected became much more complicated than it should have been) I also tried to triage the vegetable garden and back flower beds.  For as wet and cool as the spring was, the phlox came up terrible this year.  Spider mites, stunted plants, missing clumps…  I blame miserable soil prep and last summer’s drought, but who knows.  I did finally fertilize, and things appear to be turning, but as I realize once again how great they should be, I kind of regret not taking better care of them.

phlox blue spot

Phlox ‘blue spot’ is one which did get a little extra care.  I couldn’t ignore this one, I just moved it onto the list of favorite phlox… which isn’t as impressive as you’d think since it includes almost all the phlox I have!

Even though the phlox patch (aka vegetable garden, aka potager) is really just an overdone example of gardening gone wrong, it only takes one amazing flower to make it all right.  Some Regal lily (Lilium regale) seedlings from a few years back are big enough to flower and I love them.  The flowers are nice enough in themselves but in addition to color, they perfume the entire potager with a heavy scent of summer which reminds me of gardenias and the tropics.  Too much for an enclosed place, but in the late afternoon, out in the garden, perfect.

regale lily

Regal Lily in full bloom.  I would qualify them as ‘easy’ from seed, just as easy as all the other “volunteers” which fill the bed.  A less generous eye would say lily in a weed-patch but as long as the weeds flower…

While the garden slowly comes together, the new swing set also rises.  An idea comes to mind, no real reason why it shouldn’t work, new parts, wrong parts, returned parts, and a whole lot of sweaty digging while the price tag goes up and up.

pipe swing set

An industrial swing which can even handle the occasional daring adults.  Once it all came together it wasn’t that bad, the real work was removing the gravel, filling with dirt and sod dug from elsewhere, and of course digging a new planting bed 🙂

As the old swing went down, the annual ‘cut that damn grass it looks horrible and it’s full of ticks and don’t you care about the children’ discussion took place.  In an attempt to distract naysayers and define the area I nearly killed myself moving a few mini boulders over to define the edge of the meadow.  I like it and of course think it looks even better, but as for other opinions… I’ll let you know as soon as we’re back on speaking terms.

meadow flowers

End of June meadow.  Daisies ending, rudbeckia and butterfly weed coming on strong, but I’m not sure if the aspen saplings will stay or go.   

To be honest bugs do abound in the meadow.  There are fireflies, butterflies, crickets and bees galore, as well as visitors of the cottontail type.

eastern cottontail rabbit

Eastern cottontail rabbit.  They do damage, but over the season it’s still much less than a single deer or woodchuck could do in one night.  I have a soft spot for the bunnies, and have been known to carry on conversations with them, so I guess their company is worth the beheaded broccoli and mowed down lettuce.

While I was trying to figure out how the old swing set could so quickly collapse and be outgrown, it’s beginning to sink in that it’s the actual years which are ticking away.  It’s already been nine years since we moved to this house.

backyard view

A backyard view.  Nine years ago only lawn spread across the yard and up to the house.    

But you really can’t do anything other than enjoy the ride.  We now have a cute little swing set for relaxing afternoon entertainment and it will hopefully provide many years of fun.

pipe swing set

It took them all of ten minutes to figure out how much more fun jumping is compared to more sedate back and forth swinging.  As of tonight no bones have been broken so let’s hope that luck holds.

The pond is next.  It’s been a ball-trapping, mud-slopping, weed-filled pit for more years than I care to admit, and is absolutely overdue for a detox.  Every year I say the same, but I hope that once the potager is weeded, and the new swingset bed planted, and a truckload of bark mulch spread, and daffodils dug, and out-of-control compost pile reclaimed… I think then I’ll start on the pond.  Maybe.

Have a great week!