Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.25.17

As we join Cathy at Words and Herbs for this week’s Tuesday View, we see it’s rained again… and continues to rain.  Non gardeners are complaining, but just look at that green lushness!

front border

Pink coneflowers (echinacea) and the mauve cloud of Russian sage (perovskia) bring the most flower color, but the first sunflowers are opening and that should bring big changes!

I kind of forgot how things get a little out of control in this border during the summer.  The annuals start to pick up steam and I do prefer plants which you don’t always have to bend over to examine, so things are stacked in favor of disorder.

front border

The far end of the border is taking on the colors of ‘Limelight’ hydrangea and variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax).  Both are 6 feet and climbing 🙂

I like it well enough and hope it keeps getting better.  There are problems of course but for the most part the rain keeps washing them away (except for the slugs of course), and when the sun comes out I swear things have grown by another inch.

rainbow

There’s always hope after the rain.

I’m just sitting back and enjoying it.  Over the weekend I sat in a nice clean garage and watched the latest downpour coming down on the driveway.  That was pretty much it and it reminded me of all the reasons summer is awesome.

Have a great week!

 

Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.

potager

Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.

potager

I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.

potager

This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto

Shameful.  

So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.18.17

A Tuesday greeting from humid and damp Pennsylvania.  I love it.  The garden has never been so lush and vibrant, and until the mold and fungus kick in I’ll enjoy every minute of it, even the downpours.  Here’s the view this Tuesday.

front border

The pink coneflowers and lavender perovskia are really kicking in now.  

In all honesty this is actually a Monday afternoon view since the lawn was freshly cut that afternoon and strong storms were on the way, but close enough, right?

front border

The view from the street.  I started out trying to keep it shorter and neater here but the perovskia and coneflowers seeded in and I’m pretty sure nothing I could think up would look better.    

This is the time of year when this border really hits its stride.  For the next few weeks it should be just full of color… maybe too much color, but if you think back to our bleak months of winter I think you’ll be able to ignore much in the way of poor design and less than perfect color combinations!

front border

A closeup of the middle.  I see plenty, but the yellow of my absolutely favorite new plant ‘Axeminster Gold’ Comfrey is all I want to talk about.

The variegated comfrey has been something I NEEDED for a few years and finally got a hold of this spring.  It’s everything I like in a plant, big, bright, and variegated, and although it will likely scorch in this normally dry, full sun spot any other year, this season it’s doing just great.  If you need any other reason to grow this plant check out Nancy Ondra’s Hayefield blog for one of her posts on this plant.  I make no secret out of the fact it was her photos which ignited my plant lust for this goodie, and honestly it’s been at least a year since I last plugged her awesome blog or books or just plain good person-ness so I think it’s about time I mention her again.

agastache golden jubilee

What?  More yellow?  You bet!  The tidy little grass is miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’.. which (after three years) is much shorter than its predicted 4-5 foot height, and some Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ which comes nice and true from seed, as these have. 

I’ll finish up with the far end of the border which is looking much nicer this year than normal.  Part of that has been the rain, but the other factor is I’ve been making a point out of starting at this end and working my way over to the mailbox rather than the other way around.  With my attention span it really makes a difference which end you start from 🙂

front border

I don’t think anyone will be copying this mess, the only colors missing are a true red and blue,  but it sure is “interesting”.  Please take note first of the amazingly neat mulch and second of the hydrangea peeking out from the center.  It’s a clearance ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ from last autumn, and although it starts white I’m hoping it develops a nice strawberry blush soon after.  We will see.

So that’s where we’re at for this Tuesday View.  If you’d like, give Cathy at Words and Herbs a visit to see how everyone else is doing this week, it’s a great way to keep tabs as the season changes, and even better if you join in with your own view… plus you can’t go wrong on any visit to Cathy’s!

Have a great week, and wish me luck.  I started tidying up a few shelves in the garage on Friday and the weekend turned into a full blown garage cleaning, rearranging, repairing, and repaint-a-thon.  I’m not even halfway done.  It was needed.

 

 

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!

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!