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 ...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fall - Love it? or Hate it?


I have such mixed feelings about it.

In college days the return to school was exhilarating.  Football season, reconnecting with friends, new housing, new classes, new, new, new - so much to love.

Today it's more about cooler temperatures, putting the garden to bed, and the end of hazy, hot and humid August days.  I still love all of that, and as a "returning coed" i do have a new class that i am enjoying.
Chrysanthemum 'Volunteer' (far left), Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Clara Curtis' (center), and Chrysanthemum 'Show Off' (right).  'Clara Curtis' actually came from our previous yard and has bloomed for more than 20 years.  Quite a girl!
But, i am not so happy to see all the flowers dying, the cooler temperatures, and the prospect of cold and damp January and February that suddenly seem to be just around the corner.

Guess i'm never satisfied.

And, then the chrysanthemums bloom - and love/hate is forgotten and replaced with only LOVE.
Mixed with some straw flowers (annual) they make the perfect fall vaseful.
On faith I ordered a handful of "real" chrysanthemums in the spring - all in shades of burgundy and coral.  Only three of them made it thru the summer, but what a gift!  Enough to get me to order some more to add for next year.

With the last roses on the bushes, the last dahlias standing proud outside my sunny window, and the pansies just starting to perk up from replanting, there in all their glory are chrysanthemums ... enough to cut and bring in the house.  


Monday, September 26, 2016

In the Blink of an Eye

Three months have flown past since my last post ... seriously.  I have been a lazy slug.
The nicest dahlia this summer.  It's supposed to be pink - and occasionally i do get a pink bloom - but i assume it's reverted to some of its parent genes to produce this interesting blend.
It's not that nothing has happened.  There's always something happening in the garden, but it was so easy to fall into that summer lethargy of reading, evening drinks on the deck, and the doing the least work necessary in the garden.  That, and taking a class in "Perennials" is how i spent my summer. 

I have realized that in Central Virginia gardening is really a spring and fall activity.  For so much of my life i have been fitting it in around family, work and my other activities that i did not know that, even given all the time in the world, it's simply too hot and muggy all summer and too cold and damp all winter to really plan on a few hours every day in the garden. 
Ageratum 'Artist Purple' and Ecomis 'Katie' (pineapple lily) blooming in July.
Since my retirement plan was to spend nearly every morning out there, at first it was a disappointment.  Then i realized that i can stay caught up in just a morning a week for most of the summer, and have time to do other things - like be a slug.

We are now into the cooler, more comfortable days and once again i wake up anxious to get outside to see what i can get done.  I'm invigorated with new ideas and enjoying the dirt under my nails once again. 
The star of the summer veggie garden.
So, plans aplenty for the fall - and i will try to share them with you over the next couple of weeks.  No promises for posting, altho i will try to do it at least weekly.   
Got sucked in by the photo in the catalog.  This sunflower was supposed to be a deep burgundy.  Instead, it was ... brown.  Tried to cut off all the blooms before it had the chance to re-seed for next year.
On the education front, this semester I am taking "Irrigation Design and Installation" and hope to figure out a way to install a simple irrigation system in the back beds and the veggie garden.  I have no desire to dig up the whole yard to put in a "real" lawn system.  I don't care about watering the grass.  Years of cutting it "long" have given me a deeply rooted turf that pretty well takes care of itself - even in the driest of summers.  

Newly planted re-blooming azalea.  Have decided that all future azaleas will be the Encore series.  Why not have the blooms twice a year?
Instead, my goal is better water coverage for all of the perennial beds with less wasted water than I currently have with my overhead sprinklers.  Will probably not do anything until spring, but am working my way thru both a class project to design a full system and a stealth project to also design a "beds only" plan that i hope to actually implement.   

Think of a margarita on that little table in between - well, actually two.

So, have a late afternoon beverage and enjoy the sunset.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday Workday ... or Archaeology for the Urban Gardner

A freak storm blew thru last Thursday night - many of you got pieces of it, too.  Sadly, it took down our beloved plum tree.  

It was the first tree that we planted and had flourished for 16 years - even providing plums last year.  It had survived both Isabel and Gaston and a derecho last year, but something was different this time and over it tumbled. 

Our "tree man" has complained about it for years - he thought it was too close to the house (12 feet) and is sure that it had weak roots on that side and that's why it fell.  We thought it was a perfectly wonderful source of shade for the deck and loved the look of the red leaves against the yellow house.  Guess i need to find a good picture to frame and let it be a good memory. 

No matter what we do in the future, we have to get the roots out before we can do anything.  We may end up calling someone with a "stump eater" to just grind it up, but first we are trying to do it ourselves.  The tree man thought he was being helpful when he pushed the stump back into the ground and raked the dirt back around it - or, maybe that's just the professional way for him to clean up a job.  We would have preferred that he leave it alone, since we have had to dig out the dirt again to get to the roots. 

Normally, i spend about an hour each morning hoeing out dirt from the roots, and then Mitchell comes back later and cuts off as much as he can.  As you can see ... we have a long way to go.

But it's also an opportunity.  This has always been a shady place, but if we take the tree man's advice and not replace the tree, it opens up the space for another shrub and perennial border.  I think i need to go thru my class notes and look for shrubs and plants with long bloom seasons and fragrance - and things that we don't yet have somewhere else.  

If you don't have shade, at least you should have fragrance.  Don't you think?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sunday - What's Bloomin' Now?

We're in that best of all months in the Central Virginia garden.  Everything is even more lush than usual with all the rain in April and May, but the two very late freezes have caused some interesting [perennial] bedfellows.
Something new opens almost every day, making my morning strolls oh, so satisfying. [Is there anything in the world better than taking that first cup of tea - or coffee - and just wandering around looking for what's changed since yesterday?
Today was the first day that i could wander thru and gather posies for the table and have way more than i needed.
Hydrangea, yarrow, bachelor's buttons, lavender, bee balm, and Budeleia globosa. 

And, then there was this:
Yes.  It's aster.  Not due until September, but happily blooming with the first of the lilies.  I love June!!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Were They Thinking?

On days like today, i find myself wondering about the Founding Fathers ... what were they thinking?

Was it this?

Or, perhaps only this?

And, what do we do now?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wednesday Workdays - Lots of them!

Clearly, i have not been hanging out at the keyboard keeping you up to date.  Rest assured that i have been either in the garden or learning more about plants, so that i can get back to the garden!

One of the things i love most about retirement is that i can do what i want, when i want ... within reason.  So, here's what i have been working on recently. 

The Veggie Garden.

Somehow, i just can't call it the "potager", even tho that is what i had planned.   It came out too rustic for that fancy colonial name.  When we left it in October, it looked like this:

and now it looks more like this:
I've been harvesting greens (lettuce, spinach, kale and arugula) since April, but also broccoli for a month now, and English peas for the past week.  We are loving all the fresh food, but experiencing the "farmer's dilemma of having to eat the same thing for many days in a row.  I really don't want to freeze any of it, but it may come to that. 

The tomatoes are setting small fruit and we may have many sweet potatoes in the fall - time will tell.

The Cutting Garden

Sweet peas were my big experiment this year and they have done well (see first photo).  I have cut two large bunches and hope to have two or three more small bunches before they are bloomed out.  The spot was good until early May, but as the sun has risen in the sky the shade has encroached.  (Retirement has also given me a lot more time to follow the track of the sun.  I hope that will help in future planning.)  I'll plant them (the sweet peas) again next year, but will move them to the back fence where it is sunny all day.

Dahlias and zinnias are up and will be blooming in a few weeks.  Meanwhile the roses and lilies around the yard are starting to bloom so i will have flowers for the house.

The Front Entry Garden

Have been working on this area for a couple of years and it's still "in progress".  The chrysanthemums have all died, so have replaced them with small everygreens and removed all the vinca minor.  i also did a big pruning on the azaleas to clear back the walkway and re-shape the entire area.  The dogwood has canker and is dying, but there is a volunteer crepe myrtle coming along fast to replace it.
A new plant for me - Distylium 'Blue Cascade' - whose new growth is red that "fades" to green and then to blue.

Other than that, it's been weed, weed, weed for the past month.  A friend recently described her garden as "oppressively green".  It's the perfect description for these last weeks of "cooler" weather before the heat and oppressive humidity of summer arrive. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What's Bloomin' Sunday

After several years of procrastination, this year i finally made a bed for sweet peas.  Was it worth the work?  Absolutely!
This may be the only large cutting i get, but there should be enough over the next couple of weeks for a few small bowlfuls.

The "old wife's tale" in these parts is that one should plant peas on George Washington's birthday.  I took that to mean the "real" one and not the second Monday in February.  Using the various warm days in January and early February, I had the bed ready - the sunniest part of the cutting bed and where i could see the progress from my desk.

My support system worked (well, marginally).  It needs to go higher and i need to be more pro-active with the twining.

I've watched, watered and weeded for three months now and have finally been well rewarded.  Will definitely try this again ... with more support and in a more sunny place.  It's not Floret Farm, but they smell as good as they look!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

First Harvest!

Four short weeks after I planted* spinach, argula, Romaine and kale, I picked my first harvest!

I know it's this crazy early, warm spring, but couldn't be more thrilled.  I hope this means that the market will see little of me until July!.

Ten days and I can put seeds in the ground (tomatoes, ground cherries, and scallions from GrowJourney) and then a week later the bedding plants!  Can hardly wait!

*I started with four-packs, not seeds.  Will try that in the fall. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Spring!

Altho we are expecting cold, rain and perhaps snow today to celebrate the first day of spring, it does not appear that the temperatures will fall to freezing, so most of the things that are blooming too early will be fine.  And, perhaps more importantly, the too-early-spring will continue.

I continue to be a Doubting Thomas, so am working on "infrastructure" and avoiding the desire to start sticking plants into the ground.  Have raked, raked, raked and cleaned the beds so that i can order a big delivery of summer mulch in the next couple of weeks. Am replacing rotted borders and have finished "restoration pruning" on several shrubs that were in bad condition. 

Am re-setting all the paving stones in the garden walk.  Over the years the soil builds up and they "bury themselves".  A few bags of paving sand and a lot of lifting and shifting later and the whole walk will "rise" from the dirt!
With its hole filled with sand, the paver (under gloves) can go back in place and be above ground again.
But, i am having fun in the greenhouse at "school", where I volunteer in the Horticulture department on Thursday mornings.  In the fall it was mainly cleaning up the outdoor beds and mulching - a lot like what i was doing at home.  

But planting time for the greenhouses is a whole different story.

The college grows plants for one of the local historical sites and holds a spring plant sale in late April, so we have been planting seeds and transplanting from starter cell packs to plastic four-packs and hanging pots for weeks now.  It's all planned out by the head of the greenhouse and i just follow orders, but it has shown me a whole different side of the growing industry.

Everything is timed to be ready to go into the ground on May 1st.

The historical site will pick up many, many flats of summer annuals ready to go into their oh-so-lovely gardens.  We will sell flowers and veggies to local gardeners to kick off the local growing season.  And, we will plant both annuals and veggies in our demonstration gardens on campus.  And, then the maintenance will start! 

Here, is literally what i have been doing for the past few weeks.  

In mid-February (weeks 6 and 7) I planted seeds in starter cell packs. Two weeks ago (week 10) i transplanted them  to four-packs.... the ones below.  All of these plants will be going to the historic site ... and i planted them.  Remarkably, they are all thriving.  
 I realize that has more to do with greenhouse conditions than with my good work, but for the first couple of weeks i did live in fear that i had done them all wrong and none would germinate. 

All of the white tags below are mine, too, and will either go in the plant sale or into the demo gardens.

I've never had any real interest in growing from seed, but if someone would give me a greenhouse, i think i could do it!

Hope your spring will get off to a good start this week!  Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hope You are Seeing ....

.... some of this in your "neck of the woods".

A surprising second flush of blooms on the camellia.  Lots of winter damage, but still the imperative to bloom must be really strong. 

Too soon, too soon. 

If the frost next week is not too heavy, we really may have turned the corner.  One can only hope.