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!

Catching up with summer

I always admire other gardeners who seem to throw things together and they work out perfectly.  A list, a trip to a store or two,  a few hours of work, and voila!  You’re ready to relax and move on to something more entertaining.  My projects never, never,  ever work out like that.  I start something innocently enough and before you know it a budget is blown, there are walls missing from the house, or you’ve been for a visit to the emergency room.

refinishing a table

Wax on, wax off. This tabletop has seen better days.

So here’s this year’s deck saga.   You give it a good cleaning, plant up a few pots and warm up the grill for dinner, right?  Not in my lucky world.  As you get ready to pressure wash you notice the kid’s craft table is looking a bit worse for wear and really should be cleaned up before the next waterpaint session.  Out comes the sander and varnish.

Once the table is all spiffy, the pressure washing commences.  The clean looks great, but it makes you realize how abused and dirty the vinyl siding is under the covered portion of the deck.  So off it comes.  You’ve been wanting to replace it with wood paneling and now that the table is looking nice again…..

wood paneling for a covered porch

The succulents will look so much better when this is done… and the wasp nest is removed from the outlet box… and the rusted broken light fixture replaced….

The woodwork should only take a few days, but then I might as well paint the rocking chairs saved from the dumpster, and I need to plant a few of the annuals so they don’t die waiting for their deck planters.

painted porch siding

As long as you’re redoing the siding, a pair of ceiling fans sure would be nice….

calibrachoa seedlings

A pot crowded with calibrachoa seedlings. I’ve never had reseeding with these before so I’m curious to see how they turn out… these are just four spoonfuls of seedlings out of the hundreds that came up!

Not to change the subject (as if I could stay focused long enough to finish something anyway), while the renovation is going on I still need to get the annuals planted in the deck pots.  Of course this is the year everything reseeded.  One pot is full of blue salvia seedlings, another is packed with red snapdragons, and a third has hundreds of baby calibrachoa.  They all need moving off to find new homes.

Once the planters are vacant (mostly) I decide I really need some tall miscanthus in the big planters.  Mine hasn’t quite recovered from the winter, but a quick phone call finds a friend across town who can spare a few wedges out of his clump.  So off for that.

And the weeks go on.  Finally the porch and deck are finished and the new plantings are filling in.

covered porch with new wicker furniture

All set for fireworks viewing on the fourth of July, but all I could think about were the agaves and succulents in need of repotting.

I really like calibrachoa on the deck.  They bloom constantly and don’t get the little inchworms in the blooms like petunias do.  These were all purchased plants, luckily by the time I got to the nursery it was so late in the season they were all marked down!

deck planters

Calibrachoas filling in a few of the deck pots.

This year I plunked down the money for a nice mandevilla.  It’s not my favorite “Alice DuPont”, but after complete failure with Alice last year, it was time for a change, and this one is filling in nicely.  I suspect last year’s vine (purchased from a box store) had been chemically treated to bloom nicely in the pot.  It produced blooms all summer but never grew an inch (which defeated the purpose of growing a vine), and I suspect it’s from the blooming hormone cocktail it received before it got to me.

mandevilla vine on bamboo stakes

Mandevilla growing up bamboo stakes on the deck. White vinyl fencing and construction out back complete the picture 🙂

I managed to squeeze a bunch of the miscanthus into this pot, and although temperatures shot up to the 9o’s (32C) two days after its division the grass recovered nicely.  All the red was kind of a surprise though.   The snapdragons came in on their own (and all bloomed in reds) and the calibrachoa really clumped up, and the overall effect is growing on me.  I like it even more with the chartreuse leaves of the sweet potato.

red calibrachoa and snapdragons

Chartreuse sweet potato vine, red calibrachoa, miscanthus grass, and red snapdragons (with a little plug of blue scaveola).

I’m really glad I just left the snapdragon seedlings, they took off once the pots started getting regular water and feedings, and I love the color.   Now snapdragons are showing up in a second pot which was supposed to have just a single miscanthus in it.  I had pulled all the extra snapdragon seedlings out of it, but with determination like that I guess I’ll have to let them stay now.

red snapdragons in a container

Another gratuitous photo of red 🙂

Fortunately the succulent pots are more subdued.  They’re calming things down a bit as well as the other survivor from last summer, the rosemary.

pencil succulent on deck

I’m developing a little bit of a terracotta habit, I blame the cacti and succulents for it.

So finally I’m done cleaning the deck.  The covered part has become a nice little retreat made all the more cozy (in my opinion at least) by the Virginia creeper which has brought the garden up to the porch edges.  Maybe next year I’ll work out some kind of trellising system so that the creeper can climb higher and then hang down as a sort of curtain.  I like the idea, but that’s another project!

 

porch with virginia creper

The view o the porch from the garden. The creeper was never planned, but once it started growing up I welcomed it. With access from both the top and bottom it’s easy to keep an eye on it.

Now I just have to decide what to do with the geraniums.  All the time at the DIY store and I figured I might as well pick up a few new pots….. and then find some dark chocolate paint to tone down the orange…. and then divide up all the overwintered geraniums (and maybe add a new one or two) to fill the pots.  And come to think of it I should probably finish off those steps too, and the deck supports would look a lot nicer wrapped in brick…..

potted geraniums

Why am I collecting geraniums? They overwintered a bit too well from last year and who am I to hold that against them.

I hope your summer projects are coming along at a faster pace than mine do!  With the way they move I tend to think nothing gets finished around here, so as the temperatures rise I might take a break and do a few recaps to see where things are going.

Movin’ on up

The calendar and weather are beginning to agree, and both are now saying autumn is here.  While daytime highs flirted with the 80 degree mark it was easy enough to ignore first frost preparations, but cold and rain finally came through and it’s time to face the inevitable.  To get things moving I collected all the cacti and succulent pots and staged them close enough to the back door to make things near at hand in the event of some late night freeze emergency. cacti and succulents on the deckhidden frogMoving them around might give stray bugs and frogs a chance to find better winter quarters.  It’s always a nice surprise to grab a pot rim and find a nice squishy frog instead of gravel.  Apparently I was much more disturbed by the incident than this little guy.

Where all of these pots are going is still anyone’s guess, but I suspect most will go into the heated garage to sit out the winter on some dimly lit shelf away from any direct blasts of freezing weather.  As long as the soil stays dry enough they should settle down into some kind of dormancy that will take them through to spring.  Only the tall purplish euphorbia and pinkish pencil plant will stay in the brighter, warmer house (and get a few drinks of water throughout the winter).preparing tabletop succulents for winterThe summer vacation did them well, and many have come close to doubling in size since I put them out in April.  Cacti and succulents always seem so slow growing, but then all of a sudden you have a 5 pound cactus sitting on your windowsill and realize once again ‘slow and steady’ won the race.potted succulentstabletop planting of succulentsA favorite new addition is this clump of ‘living stones’ or lithops.  The name pretty much says it all and I can’t believe everyone doesn’t love these little guys…. little dull pieces of liver, boring stones…. who would say such nonsense!  They bloom too, and if you want to start a new obsession, check out this lithops post at the anxious gardener.  I hope winter care really is as easy as just a windowsill with no water -because I can do that.

This collection grows each year not just from the tiny pots I pick up here and there, but also from the little gifted bits and cuttings that any fellow gardener is almost always willing to pass on.  Tiny leaves and pieces dropped into a open spot quickly become new specimens.succulent cuttings

In the above pot there’s a barely noticeable scrap of cactus pad at the lower right of the pot.  If it grows I’ll call it Disney magic, in honor of it coming back to life from a shoe trampled bit on the side of a frontierland path…. and so the collection multiplies….

This was a good summer for blooms.  Agaves put on their first ever show and the blooms were a hit with the hummers.potted agave bloomThis one sent out several blooms.potted succulents floweringAnd this no-name cactus from my aunt in Maine blooms and multiplies year in and out.  Just about every family member has a couple of these 🙂cactus on deck

Sure the in and outs of cactus growing are more work than planting a daylily, but my succulents and cactus collection still isn’t out of control.  Aside from taking them in for winter they’re as close to no-maintenance as one can get for a tabletop or deck planting… I pretty much rely on rain to keep them going.  Maybe  when I run out of old fishtank gravel I’ll have to look for a new collection limit but until that happens I think it’s my duty to see how far this can go.

Now if only everything else was as easy to winterize!

Welcome to Fall

Now that autumn is here I have officially given up on watering the garden.  The cooler temperatures are not as deadly as the summertime heat, and the rain we had a week ago should be enough to keep things alive.  So things are on their own for a while.

Most of the vegetable garden is done anyway.  Yesterday I let the kids pick the pumpkins and decorate the porch for Halloween.pumpkin patch

red wing onion harvestThe ‘Red Wing’ onions were also harvested as well as the last of the eggplant.  This pretty much finishes up the garden for the year (with the exception of a few peppers and a single brussel sprout plant).  It’s a shame the dry weather sapped all my enthusiasm for a fall planting, the idea of a fresh lettuce harvest right about now sounds very nice.

Despite the end of regular watering, the dahlias continue to put out flowers and carry on.  But they are beginning to look tired, and anytime the sun gets strong the leaves wilt.  Just about everything looks tired.dahlias in the vegetable garden

sunset colored dahliaThe only dahlia that actually looks better now is this one.  I need to look up the name, but the color that looked awful in July shines in autumn.

In case you haven’t already picked up on it, the vegetable garden tends to become a flower garden as the season progresses.  Any gap in the plantings quickly fills with self sown verbena, Persicaria orientalis, and amaranthus ‘hot biscuits’.  The amaranthus has a weedy look that not everyone appreciates, but I like it, and have been very generous with spreading the seedlings throughout the yard.  At this time the seedheads seem to glow in the autumn sun.the late summer vegetable garden

"phoenix" the fig returned from the ashesThe glow of autumn light is a signal to start thinking about protecting the tender plants for winter.  My fig has had a troubled season.  It spent the winter in the dark of the garage and began sprouting in January.  The sprouts dried off by March but then a few pots of water brought some new shoots for April.  By May I decided to use its pot for other, healthier looking plants, and while the fig waited for a new home (perched with rootball exposed on a spare saucer) it died again, this time I thought for good… on to the compost pile it went.  But like cats, apparently figs have several lives.  Around July I noticed a few sprouts coming up out of the compost and upon investigation found the fig root ball to be the source.  Finally it was given a decent home, and it’s grown this year without any resentment.  Now what to do this winter…..

red Dipladenia with pansiesAlso needing a winter home are the tropicals on the deck.  Even though I only paid three dollars for this red dipladenia, I can’t let it die!  So either the dipladenia or the pansies will need to be repotted and brought in.  I would have never thought of this combo, but pansy seeds do their own thing.

I don’t even want to think about the rest of the non-hardy deck plants.  They’re growing and blooming and doing well in general even though I never got around to any of the summertime repotting or transplanting I had planned.blooming succulents on deck

 The geranium should hang on in the dark of the garage, maybe the rosemary, but I’ll need someplace warmer for the coleus.early fall planters on the deck

Fortunately the tropical garden survives the winter by seed or stored tuber.  No windowsills needed for this end of the garden.red themed tropical garden

the freshly turned compost pile…and I’m finally getting some work done instead of just sipping drinks in the shade.  The compost pile was turned and a bonanza of “god enough” compost was found underneath.  It’s as dry as a bone in the pile, so I’m surprised there was any decay going on at all, but the plants will love it and I’m grateful for any scraps I find.  the question will be “who gets it?”

Actually there’s no question, my favorite new bulbs always get the scarce compost.  Here’s the newest bed in the back of the meadow.  A privet hedge (luckily privet isn’t invasive here) is planned for along the fence, and a snowdrop (galanthus) bed will get its start here.  I’ll bore you with the varieties next spring but for now here’s a picture of my usual low work (ie lazy) bed preparations.new bed for snowdrops (galanthus)A couple inches of topsoil from elsewhere in the garden is spread out, bulbs are pressed down into the raked surface, a few inches of compost is used to top off and cover.  The compost I used has a good amount of soil mixed in, but if it was more organic I’d cover the bulbs with a layer of garden soil too.  They should be just fine here, and I’ll give them a good mulch of chopped autumn leaves once they come down.

I celebrate fall with bulb planting, I love getting the bulbs nestled down into the earth for next spring, I just wish the soil wasn’t so unfriendly and dry.

Hanging out on the Deck

The deck planters are starting to look good. The tropicals love the heat and the annuals have settled in. Last year I had some big grasses in the three main planters, but the winter was too much and they didn’t make it,  so this year I returned to my roots and stuffed the pots full with my favorite all summer plantings.
‘Tropicana’ canna, black sweet potatoes, million bells, and a New Guinea impatient fill this pot. Some ‘red rocket’ snapdragons fill in the back. I’ve never done the snapdragons before but right now they look great….. We’ll see how they last in the heat.
deck planter with cannas
For some reason red was the color of choice this year. Usually I don’t buy most of the plantings and just use over wintered stuff, but this year I treated myself to a nursery run. 33% off helps and if you buy it all on one day I guess a red mood will give you red plantings.
This one has similar plants with the cannas replaced by a nice new coleus and burgundy fountain grass in the center.
deck container plantings
The aloe pot here was overwintered, but the red blooms on the dipladenia are new. Not to rub it in but I think I found it for about $2 at a local greenhouse clearance and I hope to overwinter it for next year.
red dipladenia on deck
Here’s a new coleus, overwintered geranium, and a pot of blue fanflower/red celosia combo. The celosia is ‘new look’ celosia and I really like the bright flowers and dark foliage.
coleus on deck
Herbs have a spot too; parsley, rosemary and a pot of annual vinca for color.
herbs in containers
Here’s one pot that I’m not yet thrilled with. It should have a pink ‘Alice Dupont’ mandevilla climbing up the bamboo stakes, but for some reason she won’t grow…. She blooms well, but won’t grow. It was an impulse buy at a box store and looked great, but is no bigger today than it was the day I brought it home. I can’t help but wonder if it was treated with something to trigger blooming at the expense of new growth. Does anyone have an opinion on that?
There’s a chartreuse sweet potato that may step up and take over, and also an ‘Australia’ canna coming in…. But I really like mandevillas 🙂
Oh and a big basil that’s just about worn out its welcome. I never thought it would take off like that.
madevilla on deck
So that’s the news from the deck. I’ve been away for about a week so things have hopefully grown some since, but I’m pleased with the results so far. Yes, a little yellow might have brightened things up a bit, but my planting are always a little impulsive, so each year turns out a little different. Who knows, maybe next year all the grass will be back, or cannas will take over, we’ll see!

That wasn’t smart 2.0

They (whoever they may be) say you should have a theme to your blog.  I thought it was gardening, but maybe I overestimated myself.  Maybe a better theme would be stupid things I do while in the garden.
This week’s stupid move was breaking the brand new terra cotta pots when I put them down in the garage.  Crack and $15 dollars goes down the drain.  Total enjoyment at home time: 10 minutes.  Luckily only the bottom (most expensive) pot was broken,  I wonder if I could glue it.  I needed the pot for the last of my deck annuals, but it looks like I’ll have to wait till next year.  This was it for the annual pot budget…..broken terra cotta

When all resolve is lost

There were already  a couple strikes against me.  It was the first weekend in June, there was finally some steady rain to get things growing, most of my growlight seedlings are in the ground, I prepped the deck planters…… and then the kiss of death, a 33% off sale at my favorite greenhouse, Kettel’s Greenhouse in Falls Pa (check the link to their facebook page for current info).  With the exception of shrubs and trees, they grow all their stuff on site in their own greenhouses.  When it’s gone it’s gone, so waiting for the clearance sale is a little risky if you need something specific, but that’s not me….. plus I was already there once in April 🙂 ….  Here’s what I got for under $40.deck plantersApparently I was in a red mood yesterday.  A little yellow would have been a good idea, but so goes the moment.  Celosia ‘new look’, new guinea impatiens, and snapdragons are going to be new this year but the rest are planter standards.  Usually I don’t get this much but the prices were great, the plants looked perfect, and I was rewarding myself for surviving a morning full of surprise furniture moving and bedroom painting.
I think I’m in denial over all the coleus cuttings, canna roots, and other overwintered goodies that also need to come out and get planted.  I’ll figure it out soon enough.  In the meantime there’s a nice Christmas display happening on the deck steps.  Overwintered amaryllis and recovering asparagus fern.  Happy holidays!overwintered amaryllis