A Commitment

Around the end of January I passed the four year anniversary for this blog.  There wasn’t a big celebration to mark the date, nor a small one, and to be honest I wasn’t really sure where to go from there but I guess I finally have.  Just to state the obvious, this blog doesn’t have any rigorously defined purpose or goals so I can’t say weather it’s been a success or not, but one day it started and it’s been going ever since.  At the time I just wanted a spot to go on a little too much about favorite plants and plantings and a space to ramble on a little too long about things I find interesting and looking back I think I’ve been staying exactly on message.  Pretty impressive if you ask me, but it brings me around to the title of this post.  In case you’re wondering the commitment mentioned is that I finally signed up for the bona fide paid version of WordPress.  The free version I’d been using was nearly out of storage space and it was either that, delete old posts, or start a new blog.  For about $3 a month I decided to keep plodding on.

self seeded phlox

Last August’s view of my least favorite garden bed. 

I suppose now is as good a time as any for a quick look back on how the blog is going, and the painful truth is it hasn’t turned into the moneymaker I was hoping for.  There have been few if any lucrative endorsements, I haven’t developed any ‘SortalikeSuburbia’ product lines, and the movie deal my friend was so sure of has yet to materialize.  I feel bad about the last one especially since he was so determined to play himself in the big screen version.  I hope he’s not too disappointed when I break the news to him.

messy flower bed

This spring it’s as far as I got with the cleanup.  There just wasn’t enough vim or vigor left to tidy up a bed when you just don’t care about it. 

So my blog is officially worth $3 a month to me, even if it does sometimes remind me that parts of my garden looked better off before than after.  For $3 a month I do enjoy scrolling back during the winter and reliving past seasons and flowers, but the more valuable part is I get to enjoy all the blogging friendships I’ve made along the way.  Friendships are always good, and plant friends are the best, even when they’re the kind of friends who have nicer things and you keep trying to duplicate them… which of course I can’t blame them for since there’s a 99% chance I would have kept adding more plants even without them 🙂

planting grass seed

Anything which didn’t thrill me was composted.  It’s been a rough spring for the underperformers and this bed was no exception.  I even tossed a fothergilla and some Siberian iris in order to plant grass, so if anything this bed will at least look neater than before… although it’s only the second time ever that beds have been turned back to lawn!

So four more years of questionable content, mediocre writing, and aimless ramblings, and hopefully somewhere along the way a few good things come out of it.  You never know about those movie deals!

grassy slope

Another area which might need more commitment…  I’m kind of curious to see how this rock hard, sterile fill behind my MIL’s yard develops.  It was a pleasantly weedy meadow before, but after the fill was dumped I needed a pickaxe to level and grade.  Once life gets a toehold here I think it will be a great spot again, you’ll have to trust me on that one.

It’s been rainy and cool here this weekend, but with a pile of mulch to spread the cool part doesn’t sound too bad.  Unfortunately the mulch is for next door, so no excitement here but maybe a few new plants will be snuck in to break up the monotony of fresh mulch beds.  It will be my community service for the week 🙂

Tuesday View: The Street Border 04.11.17

Two weeks have passed since the last Tuesday view, so it’s about time we see what the melted snow and furious warm-up have left behind.  If I remember correctly this photo was taken in the late afternoon, shortly after our Tuesday high of 86F (30C) had begun to cool off and allow some relief to plants more accustomed to snow flurries and frost.

spring mixed border

The early daffodils and hyacinths have sprouted and come into bloom in a matter of days.  As recently as three days ago I believe the grass was still brown!

These catapults into warm weather always leave me a little irritated.  I’ve got a ton of cleanup to do but the lawn is still a melting-snow-mess of soggy ground and matted leaves.  Fortunately the front yard dried out enough for me to get around without making too muddy a mess, and I was able to rob the neighborhood leaf dump for some free leaf mulch to top off the border.  The mulch went a long way in covering up all the debris I was too lazy to pick up, and I just managed to get it on in what seemed like the last hours before too many of the spring bulbs had sprouted.

spring mixed border

Yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils with a bunch of hyacinths which need dividing.  There’s never enough time to get all these things done. 

Besides the daffodils and hyacinths there is also a noticeable increase in the corydalis population.  Last summer I managed to find and dig a few dormant bulbs and immediately replanted them along the street.  They’re all the pink ‘Beth Evans’ but if I get to it this summer I’ll mix in a few of other spare colors from around the yard… assuming I remember to dig them before they disappear completely in May, they go fast.

spring mixed border

I’m aiming for a mix of corydalis, eranthis and snowdrops in this part of the bed.  It’s an area which will become a thicket of butterfly bush (buddleia) by August so the bulbs will be able to rest comfortably in the shadows until next spring.

Nothing is ever perfect though, and last spring’s early warmth, late freeze damage, and then relentless cold rain are coming back to haunt the tulips this year.  ‘Tulip Fire’ (Botrytis tulipae) is a fungal disease related to the gray molds which thrive in damp, cold weather.  It shows as spotted and distorted (or scorched) leaves which will ruin your tulip show.  Wise gardeners will dig up and dispose of the infected plants and avoid replanting tulips for about three years and possibly resort to fungicidal sprays, but the less wise gardener might respond differently.  He might ignore the problem and hope better tulip weather will bring some relief in future seasons.  It’s more of a prayer approach and sometimes this method works out better than you can imagine.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and we’ll keep you posted.

tulip fire fungus

The spotting and distorted sprouts of tulip fire infected tulips.

For now though there are plenty of other distractions to keep one from dwelling on the loss of a few tulip blooms.  Here’s another view of daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ and the spreading corydalis.  I think it looks very promising.

spring mixed border

Early spring color in the front border.

It looks colorful at least, and it’s a welcome relief after all the snow of just a few weeks ago.  Let’s hope it lasts for a few days at least.

The Tuesday view is a weekly visit to the same spot each week of the growing season.  Cathy of Words and Herbs hosts, and I highly recommend a visit to see what her view looks like and to see what others around the world are enjoying this week.  Have a happy Easter!

GBFD August ’16

They say better late than never, but according to that theory just about everything I do should be better… and I know that’s not the case, so I’ll let you be the judge.

I’ve let a few too many of Christina’s Garden Blogger Foliage Days pass by without a decent post, and that’s a shame since I really enjoy her prodding us to take a monthly step back to look past all the flowers.  The flash of flowers often catches the eye and as a result foliage often fades into the periphery of subconscious thought, so on the 22nd of each month it’s not the worst idea to look around and consider what the leafiness of your garden is doing for the bigger picture.

lasagna garden bed

The bed-which-I-can’t-decide-what-to-do-with just before we left on our camping trip.

I showed the above picture just a few days ago and although I knew there were a few weeds sprouting I just didn’t get to them before we left.  Let me just insert here that this is not going to be the “decent post” which GBFD deserved this month because it’s a post on only one type of foliage, and that’s the quick growing green of crabgrass and other uninvited leafy pests.

weedy flower bed crabgrass

The same bed exactly one week later.  A bounty of rain, heat, and sunshine plus a fertile soil (the dumping spot for our rabbit’s used bedding) have greened up everything.  Even the clover and creeping Charlie have filled in any last remaining dead patches in the “lawn”.

I spent a recent afternoon clearing out all the lush growth.  The bed is empty again but this time I stuck a few stray cuttings here and there and with a little luck perhaps I’ll have some more varied foliage for September’s GBFD.  At the very least it might give the weeds a little competition since apparently there’s not much slowing them down now.

Thanks for humoring me with this ‘foliage’ post and if you haven’t already been over please consider giving Christina a visit to see what others have done this month with their posts.  You won’t be disappointed.

GBFD April ’16

Imagine my embarrassment when I saw it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post.  I know the exact reason for the pause but right now just  don’t want to get into the ugly truths about mixing brutal cold fronts with fresh spring growth.  Instead I’ll focus on the beautiful sunshine of a cool spring morning and join in for a very quick visit to celebrate Garden Bloggers Foliage Day with Christina from ‘Creating my own garden of the Hesperides’.

muscari and blue fescue

The grayish leaves of blue fescue (Festuca glauca) alongside the blue flowers of grape hyacinths (Muscari).  Please ignore the freeze burned tulips to the left of the photo…

Thanks to Christina for the monthly reminder to reexamine the contributions foliage makes to the overall look and feel of the garden, and this month it’s a border of blue fescue which has me most pleased with foliage effect.  This border was switched up last spring when I divided and spread a few clumps all along the foundation plantings, and this spring it has filled in with a lush vigor which really shows off the bed.  Now that the fescue is making me happy I’m fixated on a clump of blue muscari growing just behind the grass clumps.  There’s a strong possibility this will be divided and spread along as well since I like the combination.

The fescue and muscari are extremely common plants and both were free shovel-fuls from other gardens.  It kind of makes me reconsider that bucket of plant labels which no longer match living partners… but not enough to cure that plant lust for all the new goodies 🙂

See?  I promised it would be quick.  Please visit Christina’s blog as well, it’s always a pleasure to see and hear about the foliage others across the globe are enjoying in their own gardens, and have a great weekend!

Stop it with the autumn talk

Many people enjoy and claim they welcome the coming of autumn.   I want to make it clear that I do not, and although the last few days have been a little too hot and dry for my taste, I would much prefer the relief of a summertime cloudburst rather than any farewell to summer eulogy.  So I guess what I want is just a few more days of denial before I’m forced to admit the season is breaking down.

hardy chrysanthemums

The tomatoes of summer are still going strong even with their new neighbors the fall chrysanthemums.

After a promising start to the summer August went dry and for the past forty days we’ve barely cracked the 1/4 inch mark for rainfall.  With high temperatures, thin soil, drying winds, and full sun the life was sucked out of a garden which had been almost carefree at the start of the summer.  With a nice rain today we’ll see how fast things bounce back.  My guess is it will be a much faster turnaround than the last two summers when things REALLY dried out to a crisp.

fall vegetable gardening

One patch of watered soil ready for fall planting. Hopefully cool weather will soon allow for a few broccoli and cauliflower transplants.

In spite of the heat a few things still look nice.  The tropical garden got a few minutes with the hose, and that seems to have been enough to keep it from death.  I love the colors right now with the purple verbena bonariensis, dark red dahlias, and peach colored salvia splendens filling the bed.

salvia splendens van houttei peach

A little orange from ‘Tropicanna’ canna goes a long way in brightening up the late summer salvia, verbena and dahlias.

With the grass dried up to a crispy beige the stronger reds, oranges, and purples really stand out.  I don’t think a bed full of lavenders, whites, and pale pinks would be as eye catching…. which I’m going to say is a good thing, since in this world of gray and tan I can use as much eye catching and hold-on-to-life color as I can get!

dahlia mathew alan

End of summer color from dahlia ‘Mathew Alan’.  As usual the dahlias could use some dead heading.

Even up front a little bold color is a nice thing.  The border along the house foundation has a few spots of color from the ‘Masquerade’ peppers I planted out this spring.  The true type has purple peppers changing to yellow, orange, and red while a few oddball plants started right off with pale yellow and are now going through the same sunset effect.

pepper masquerade

‘Masquerade’ peppers from seed with all the fescue clumps I divided up this spring.  I finally like this bed… but we’ll see how I can mess it up next year 🙂

Along the street is another story.  Even with a few emergency waterings things look end of summer tired.

dry perennial border

To water or not to water, that is the question.  Obviously I chose the latter, but the ‘Karl Forster’ feather reed grass, sedums, and perovskia are still holding on.

I did give the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea a little soaking, but a few water lovers such as the ‘Golden sunshine’ willow will need a good bit of water before they look anything close to happy again.

dry perennial border

I think this border will need a little trimming out of dead things once the rains soak in.  No big deal though, a little fall cleanup will carry it on through the next few months.

There are still a few bright spots.  Even in the harsh midday sun kniphofia ‘Ember Glow’ looks nice.  It could be a little taller but the size actually works well with the peppers and coleus (please ignore the dead rudbeckias and dying zinnias).

kniphofia

Red hot poker (Kniphofia) with peppers and a surprisingly sun and drought resistant coleus.  I wasn’t sure if the poker would ever bloom this year but I guess it’s a later cultivar. 

Until the garden bounces back the best thing to do is spend more time in the shade, seated with cold beverage in hand.  I can ignore the weeds and dead lawn quite successfully on the back deck.

summer planters on the deck

This is a late summer view, not autumn.  I’ll keep that delusion up until the first frosts threaten!

Even with a good soaking the lawnmower will still likely be on vacation for another week or two.  I’m ok with that.  I hope the soil takes in the rain, the plants come back, and I can finally use something other than a pickaxe to dig a hole.  Maybe then I’ll start thinking about things like fall while I’m taking care of a little late summer transplanting and bulb planting 🙂

Check one corner off

There were a few cool days last week and I was able to drag myself out into the garden and give the vegetable beds a once over (in spite of the dry soil and high pollen counts).  I think it looks as good as it gets, and with all the unintentional flowers it may be fancy enough to call a “potager”, as Annette from Annette’s Garden once called it.  I like the name and it’s stuck.  It has just enough Continental refinement to make me laugh a little when I look at the plastic fencing, weedy sumacs, chainlink and neighboring industrial park!

the potager vegetable garden

The potager with neatly edged beds and way too much disorganization.  By now the warm weather vegetables should already be in but with last week’s frost I’m kind of grateful for my procrastination.

The work always goes faster with a good helper or two, but studies have shown that nine year old boys don’t typically fall into that category.  Still the company is welcome.

kids in the garden

A few edible things are starting to fill the beds but I’m always proudest of the fancy pink marble edging which line the plots.  In a former life the stone accented the front of the house, but now it helps edge the beds.  The look has been called “deep south cemetery” and I’m sure that’s a compliment. 

Ok, so even freshly weeded it’s still kind of messy, but I’m far too proud of the crisp edge along the lawn and the freshly mulched boxwood to let that keep me from posting a photo.  Our little Queen of the Prairie” must agree.  She overlooks the potager but has seen better days as the weather continues to eat away at her plaster self.  Might be time to start hitting the estate sales to find a successor.

boxwood edging vegetable beds

A very rarefied boxwood edging lines the outer perimeter and I think it really elevates the standing of my hodgepodge of plants.  Hopefully I can enjoy it for a few years now that it’s finally growing in, especially since  so many European and New England gardeners are facing multiple boxwood problems … blight, caterpillars, ugh.

The iris are at their peak.  I should really evict them but never do.

iris in the vegetable beds

Seems like for every iris clump I remove a few new ones pop up.  The compost usually brings in a few but the gardener also tends to feel bad for spare plants and ends up putting the innocent little fans in here and there.

I don’t know what to say about this clump.  Two years ago I dumped them here when I needed their real estate for a tomato planting.  I never replanted them but apparently they don’t care.  Two years in an iris bed with no bloom, two years of being tossed to the side and they look great.  Go figure.

historic bearded iris

Their identities are probably lost, but I think the apricot-pink to the right is ‘Jean Guymer’.

It’s not all flowers, there are a few cool weather vegetables braving the up and down temperatures.  Broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, and garlic all look promising, but here the tomato seedlings still all need to be weeded out.  If I knew what they were I’d keep them, but I already have more than enough.  They’ll stay for a few days longer to keep the ground covered since I don’t want mud splattering up into the yummy little lettuce rosettes when I water.

lettuce mervielle quatre seasons matina sweet

Two favorite lettuces, the never bitter ‘Matina Sweet’ and the darker ‘Mervielle de Quatre Saisons’… which should get a delicious tender green heart in a few more days.

The heat was too much for the arugula.  The flowers are nice enough though, and I won’t mind weeding this one out for salads if it goes to seed.

arugula bolting to seed

Chives in bloom and arugula bolting as the weather gets warm.  Time to plant the summer crops!

Even with the weeding and watering there’s still a ton to do.  Some tulips and daffodils will hopefully start coming out this weekend and that should open up room for beans and squash.  It may still be May but I’m going to say summer is here, and the next big project will be summer annuals.  Even though the plantlets are anxious to get out from under the growlights, I hope to tackle one last big weed patch adjacent to the potager before all my energy is lost.  It’s the on again off again red border/ pond bed, and hopefully in the next few weeks there will be some progress there as well.

eliminating weeds from perennial bed

All kinds of weeds filling the red border.  I resorted to roundup along the fence and that’s the only reason it’s not a sea of campanula glomerata.

Wish me luck.  We had a good rainstorm come through this afternoon and everything seems to be letting out a big sigh of relieve (including my water meter).  Facing next week’s high temperatures with a still-dry garden was not something I was looking forward to, so I’m thrilled!

The Foundation Planting

Our latest arctic blast has got me going through old pictures, and I found a few that have been sitting around for a while.  They’re all about the bed along the front of the house, and they all relate to a redesign I attempted this past spring.  Let me know what you think!

The house we live in now was built by my wife’s grandparents in the late 1950’s, and is probably still considered stylish by many.  Unfortunately we don’t share that retro-Italianate taste in ranches and set about to change things up while remodeling.  This was our front view circa spring 2009, not long after we moved in.retro landscapingThe combination of toddler, new baby, and home renovations is a fun mix, and outside changes were mostly put onto the back burner,  but that summer I did manage to get out the salmon colored edging and covered the colorful red bark mulch with a more natural shade.  I’m not saying it looked better, but at least it’s a little less sterile looking.Summer 2009If I was forced to give an answer I would probably say I hate the orangey color of our brick.  We’re stuck with it though, and since there’s not much of a design flair in me the collector gene took over, and all the cuttings and divisions I collected easily found a home in the vacant mulch beds.  By 2011 the mess was spreading and in an attempt to reign in the disorder I consulted with the ‘can’t beat em join em” theory.  I tried to embrace the orange by entering into a red phase.  I figured if I planted an even brighter scarlet then perhaps it would be bright enough to distract viewers from the orange brick…. or maybe I was trying to offend the neighbors, I don’t know- but I would like to challenge anyone out there to show me an example of red salvia used tastefully 🙂Late August 2011

Maybe Secretly I delighted in reds and chartreuse, and I think I still do….. just not in the front bed highlighting the orange brick.  This lovely combo has been saved and moved to the tropical bed to face down the already-overwhelmingly tasteful white vinyl privacy fencing there…. I’m not sure it looks much better there, but at least I’m sparing the neighbors from this assault of color. (fyi the hummingbirds loved it)the landscape's red phase

Now what to do?  The next year I had no enthusiasm for the bed without my lovely coleus and salvia.  A few perennials filled in to give it a fuller look, but it still lacks something.  The blue spruce was getting too big for under the window, and the Chamaecyparis too tall….. and I was getting tired of trimming the silly pompom juniper. Fall 2012So late that fall I laid out a bed expansion.  Truth be told I over estimated the space available for tulips, so after lining out the new border I dug tulips in all around in the lawn and then left the grass for spring removal.  Dec 2012That spring as the tulips came up through the overturned sod, I finished digging under the rest of the grass.digging under the turf

Moving the spruce was no picnic, and I almost thought it would die (considering how many roots I cut) but I think it will be much better off in the new position, and give a nice anchor to the end of the bed.  Fortunately for me, just when the shrub moving started to get too back-breaking, a buddy stopped by to help.a friend stops by

Soooo, here’s the finished product.  I moved a small paperbark maple over a few feet to be included in the bed, lined it with blues fescue divisions, and placed three tiny holly bushes where the spruce was.  Against all other urges I tried to limit the plant choices and plant in groups.  The curve is a little odd, but I’ll work on that during the next expansion 😉the "finished" product

With mulch applied and tulips blooming, it didn’t look half bad, but to be honest I still didn’t like it.  (one of the reasons you rarely see pictures of this border)foundation planting with tulips

I do like the yucca “color guard”.  It and the blue fescue seem to be a nice fit for this border.yucca colorguard with blue fescueBlues, yellows , and greens seem to complement the house better than all the loud mixed up flower colors.  For a couple weeks I didn’t mind this look, even as the tulip foliage yellowed and died off.  But then boredom and excess plants struck, and I was back to my old ways of sneaking in a few new plants here and there. dying foliage of tulips

Red cabbage wasn’t the worst color to add, but maybe it was just a little inappropriate for a front yard foundation planting.  Coleus crept in again, and the sunflower seedlings looked so innocent in the early summer…. but the lavender with the yucca and blue fescue kept it respectable.red cabbage in the border

Sunflower explosion.  Still better than my red experiment, but not yet the look I was going for.  midsummer abundance

Maybe annuals are just not a good choice for this bed.  I’ll rethink it next year and maybe skip the dahlias too 🙂   For now I’ll use the excuse that they distract you from the too-small hollies planted under the window…. better to be distracted than to be downright bored I think….  By the way those hollies better get growing, I want them nice and big and prickly by the time my little daughter starts to consider things like sneaking out a window or meeting some Romeo who comes by throwing pebbles.too much color again

The border last month (before winter and winter boredom hit).December 2013

Four things:  bigger plants, get rid of the grasses, remove the tall evergreen, and stick to a mellow color palette…. and of course expand the bed just a few more feet 🙂  Any other suggestions?  I know there will be some good ones and I’m looking forward to hearing them as well as hearing some more criticism.  I can take it, and I’m hoping it will get me back on the path that leads to me finally liking this bed!