Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring is in the Garden

Five months without posting ... lazy indeed.  I wish i could say that i've been traveling, or even ill, but neither would be the truth.  Just terminally lazy. 

Now that spring has finally arrived - after all the fits and starts that everyone on the East Coast has talked about - I have plenty of projects and plenty to share.  Perhaps that will inspire me to write more regularly. 

It's always wonderful to finally be able to get my hands into the dirt after the long winter of waiting, and this year is no exception.  I spent the winter planning out a new shade garden.  After much consideration, it has turned into three projects that together will accomplish my goal. 

We have an area in the "big back garden" that is almost entirely under an elm tree and a vitex - which is more of a large open shrub, since it, too, is under the elm.  Most than 15 years ago I planted a chunk of 'Obedient Plant' (Physostegia virginiana) which came from our old house (my mother-in-law's garden) and three 'Solomon's Seal' (Polygonatum biflorum).  Later i added 'Lady's Mantle' (Alchemilla mollis) and just left them alone to grow and spread.  The result was a sea of the first two and several large clumps of the latter.  Not unpleasant to look at, but over time i have learned about so many other shade loving perennials that i would like to try.  So, this was the year to make a major change and install a planned shade garden.
This is the left end of the shady area, starting at the arborvitae and moving right to the vitex.  There's a spirea with Lady's Mantle on both sides and the entire "back" part is Obedient Plant.
And, here's where it became three small projects.

1) Water.  I decided that a way to get water to this part of the garden was imperative - hence, i needed to install some sort of irrigation.  Last fall I took a class in irrigation at the community college to see if i could handle this myself.  By the third week i knew that i did not want to dig up my entire yard and disturb all the beds to get an underground system installed; that it was probably more than Mitchell and i wanted to tackle by ourselves; and, that it would be too expensive to do what i really wanted to do.  But i did learn the principals of irrigation: how to lay it out for complete coverage; how to plan for different amounts of water for different parts of the garden; and how to measure and test precipitation.  I found an above-ground product that i thought would work.

From the vitex to the right is filled with Solomon's Seal - solid left to right and front to back.  It's gorgeous in April, and provides lots of foliage for flower arrangements, but honestly ... it's become invasive.  There are also two Nandina domestica 'Nana' at the very front.  I will keep them, but not there.
2) The shade garden.  I spent the winter planning and designing the space, researching plants, and comparing prices so that i would be ready to jump in when spring arrived.   

3) A sitting area.  If one is going to have a new, shady garden with lots of new plants, then one will want a new sitting area from which to enjoy them.  And, perhaps kick back and enjoy a book.

Seen from the "back" side ... first Obedient Plant, then native (wild) asters, and then Solomon's Seal.
So,  this is the tease.  Three posts to come on the three mini-projects. 

Hope your spring is going well, too!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Consider the Marigolds ....

Actually, i have had to reconsider the marigolds.  

They have never been a favorite - you know, too orange or too gold.  But I planted some this year among the tomatoes to work their magic on keeping away the bugs.  

[I wonder if that is a myth?]

Now, as the rest of the garden is falling asleep and a nip is in the air, they continue to bloom and bloom and bloom.  Seen from the kitchen window they are first thing to catch the sunshine in the mornings and they catch it again in the mid-afternoon before it descends to its southern reaches in late fall and winter.  

Bottom line ... they have made me happy this year. 

Over the weekend Mitchell asked if we were "out of flowers".  The answer is "just about".  There are a few chrysanthemums left and some tiny roses, but not much that would look nice in a vase.   

But, there were plenty of marigolds.

Perhaps I need to re-think our relationship ...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Freeze Cometh ....

All the Weather Guessers are predicting a real killing freeze tonight, so it seemed like one last walk-about was important. Altho we will still have plenty of warm days and nights above 32, lots of things will be dead tomorrow. 

The brightest spot in the garden - both literally and figuratively - belongs to the marigolds.  Since i pulled out the tomatoes some weeks ago, they have continued to grow and glow.  [They are on the "menu" for Wednesday, as well.]

The tiny rose continues to bloom prolifically and will probably not care about the cold night. 

The same with the chrysanthemums.

This azalea is NOT a re-bloomer, but decided a few days ago to throw out some extra fall blooms.  I suspect they will be gone in the morning. 

Don't know about the galliarda ...  this is a first time plant for me.  Since i planted them in early October, they have doubled in size and bloomed steadily.  I will be sorry to see them go.

We are in a warm spot of Zone 7.  Typically in this zone the first frost is October 15th, but we seldom get one until around the 5th of November.  And, a first freeze at mid-November is about right.  So the seasons seem to be on time this year and we move steadily on toward the really cold nights to come.

The deciduous holly is covered in berries for the birds, as are the nandinas.  While the fothergilla is turning from green to gold to russet.  It's nice that you can depend on it. 

Only 90 days until we start to see the beginnings of spring, and less than that until the camellias and hellebores bloom and we start all over again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday Workdays ....

.... many of them!

In June i told you that we lost our beloved 'Thundercloud' plum in a storm.  Taking the treeman's long time advice, we did not replace it with another tree.  "Too close to the house," he said.

Instead, i took the opportunity to turn a shady spot into a sunny garden - and hopefully, a fragrant garden.

After the tree was cut down it took us weeks to grub out the stump and prepare the area.  By then it was too hot to plant in this "neck of the woods", so i spent August planning and then September and October actually planting. 

Because this bed is at the entrance to the backyard, as well as to the back deck, i decided to create a much for formal layout than any garden space i have ever had.  We already had azaleas at the base of the deck, so we added a larger rhododendron 'Gibraltar' that is both reblooming and fragrant (or so they promise!) and a gardenia 'Chuck Hayes' that is recommended for this area. [Many of the older, traditional jasminoides-type gardenias do not like our winter soil conditions and struggle.  This is a newer cultivar that is supposed to be happy here - year-round, they say.]

And then i laid out a triangular bed of concentric  arcs.  This was the most fun part.  I got the ground spray paint that you see marking water lines and used string to create a "compass" so that I could accurately space the rows and then filled in the plants. 

From the "point" backward are:

1 - Carex 'Everest' - can take more sun that some other cultivars

2 - Gaillardia 'Grape Sensation' - the grower claims it's the best blanket flower that she has tried - a deep purple, instead of red, orange or yellow

3 - Sedum 'Madrona' and Sedum 'Neon' - coordinating colors (shades of pink) and different textures - both moved from existing places in the yard

4 - A row of oriental lilies - shades of pink to burgundy and all supposed to be fragrant

5 - A row of grasses - two in the center are pink Muhlenbergii capillaris (fall bloomer) and four are Koeleria macrantha glauca (spring bloomer)

As one approaches the bed will spread out in front of you with the larger shrubs forming a wall before you reach the lawn.  And, from the rear the grass and lilies will stand taller than the shrubs and the flowers will peek out behind.

For winter - and to help me wait until spring to start to see if it works! - i over-planted pansies, too.

Only time will tell if it works ...