Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Please Stop Raining

It has been raining for the past 5 days. And we're not talking about a pleasant gentle rain that quickly absorbs into the dry soil to nourish it with rainy goodness. No, we're talking torrential downpour that grudgingly pelts tender seedlings to the brink of death and leaves the roses to hang their heads in disgust.

Stupid rain.

At least we're no longer in a drought and my rain barrel is overflowing. On the downside, the eggplant are really ticked off to be bent toward the ground, their leaves covered in mud, and my soybeans keep getting washed out. Mother Nature - Do you know the meaning of the word "moderation?" Get a dictionary lady.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Buttercups - A Tolerable Weed

Check out these cute little creeping buttercups.


They have such happy little blossoms, and their foliage isn't too hard on the eyes either. It's a shame that they're weeds and they try to take over the entire yard, because they're pretty much impossible to eradicate.

Oh well. They're nice window dressing for the rain barrel.

buttercups with rain barrel

When we began working on the back perennial bed three years ago, these buttercups were flourishing beneath the layer of gravel and landscape fabric the previous owners had laid in that bed. I don't think these plants CAN be killed if they survived those conditions. We just try to yank them out as we see their tips emerge from the soil. We'll never be rid of them, but we can try to keep them managed!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Squirrel POW Camp

I'm at war with the squirrels. They have been digging in my squash, and that's not cool. The poor little seeds haven't even had a chance to germinate yet! The squirrels are so audacious that they dug up the seeds, ate the soft center from the pod and left the empty pod laying next to the freshly dug hole.

I hate squirrels.

They have wised up to the old "fake snake" trick, and they're not falling for it this year. Maybe I should get a real snake, or a mongoose. Yeah, I think a mongoose would work.

fake snake to scare away birds and squirrels

My wire mesh tee pees are all busy protecting the corn from birds and squirrels, so they will be no help to the squash this year.

wire mesh tee pees to keep the squirrels out of the seed line

So I had to come up with a new idea to deter squirrels. Check out this combat zone.

squirrel POW camp

Regardless which direction the squirrels try to enter the seed zone, they will get a little stabbity stab courtesy of a bamboo shish-ka-bob skewer, hopefully in the eyeball.

squirrel POW camp

I'll let you know if they work.

I also sprinkled some cayenne pepper around each seedling planting. Hopefully these squirrels aren't Cajun.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Siamese Tulip

Ian bought me some lovely tulips and irises for Mother's Day. Although I'm not technically mother to any human children, I have lots of plant children and even a little doggie child, so I graciously accepted the gift!

We were both surprised to see this anomaly arrive with the arrangement - a double-headed tulip!

double headed tulip

That's some cool stuff. I have never seen a double-headed tulip, so I searched the Internet for information regarding why this happens. I couldn't find anything! I guess this is quite the rarity. If you know how a tulip can grow two heads - please do share!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Flower Boxes

Last year I planted perennials in this window box in hopes that they would return this year, but they didn't make it through the winter. Although I loved the look of last year's design, I didn't want to wait for perennials to mature again, so I went with annuals. The snapdragons were a bad choice since they always wilt like freshly picked lettuce in the sun. I don't know what I was thinking - I guess I just like them. I'll find something to replace them eventually, but I'm not sure as of yet what it will be. Also in the line up are purple begonias, bacopa and verbena - nothing all that spectacular this year.


Last year I planted dracanea and coleus in these two cement planters, but I wasn't happy with those choices. The colors were too dramatic for this area, particularly in harsh contrast with the roses and perennials. I decided to soften this planting up a bit this year with fuchsia, begonias and ivy.

cement planters

Since these two planters are eclipsed by the roses, I had to choose plants that can handle mostly shade.

This firecracker fuchsia makes a nice centerpoint (even though it's not technically in the center).

firecracker fucshia

And the ivy will provide a dramatic draping effect.


The begonias will fill in the rest of the space nicely, and the curly grass in the back will provide a little bit of contrast for the fuchsia. That's the plan at least!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Current Front Yard View

The front yard is coming along nicely. Although the view from the road is not all that spectacular due to the sloping yard, I'm still pleased. The grass is even looking greener this year - too bad it's mostly weeds, but you can't tell that little detail from this photo!

house view

I love the disheveled view down the pathway caused by the perennial bed that was installed last year. The coreopsis is going to town, and I can't wait until those buttery yellow blooms start to open!

pathway view

The curving lines of the new perennial bed help to soften the hard lines of the rest of the yard, and that fresh layer of mulch helps hide its sparseness! This bed will be overflowing with goodness this time next year - hopefully!

new perennial bed

The knockout roses are performing beautifully again.

perennial bed view

This view from the front door has always been one of my favorites.

front porch view

I hope to replace the concrete sidewalk with a stone path eventually, but that is not high on the to do list this year. We'll see what the summer brings!

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Prairie Petite Lilac

My Prairie Petite lilac has grown so slowly that I suspected it to be a geriatric variety. I purchased it from Park's Seeds in Fall 2007, but from what I can find on their website, they don't sell this variety any longer. I was interested in this plant, because it is supposed to be a miniature lilac but produce blooms as prolifically as a full-size shrub. The intoxicating scent of lilac is a childhood memory that I would like to keep alive, but I don't really have room for a full-size plant in my yard.

In all honesty, I did get a bloom this year, and it smelled fantastic, so I shouldn't complain about the plant, but in even more honesty, this guy was up for composting this year if it didn't bloom.

Here he is first year:

prairie petite lilac

He grew a little bit the second year:

prairie petite lilac bush

And a teeny bit more the third year:

prairie petite lilac year 3

Check out his cute little attempt at blooming.

prairie petite lilac year 3

Poor little fellow. I think I'll give him a little more time to get settled in.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bleeding Heart on Steroids

I read that white bleeding heart is more difficult to grow than the pink variety, but despite this warning, I wanted to give it a try. I didn't expect much, especially when the plant died back early the first year it was planted.

I was excited to see it emerge last Spring and put on a pleasing display of white heart-shaped arches of flowers.

white bleeding heart

This year was a bit different. The plant SHOT out of the soil and erupted into a volcano of green foliage, interspersed with white shoots of flowers.

bleeding heart year 2

I had no idea bleeding heart reached this size. I wonder if it's the steroids I have been watering into the soil!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wisteria Lane

A good friend who lives down the street has an arbor over her back deck that supports the most beautiful purple wisteria I have ever seen.

lauren's gorgeous wisteria

I have always loved wisteria, but after witnessing this spectacle, I decided it is a must-have plant this year. I'm not sure where I will put it, but I have got to get one.

lauren's gorgeous wisteria

The poor thing had been hit by late frosts the past two years and barely bloomed. It is certainly making up for all that lost time this year!

lauren's gorgeous wisteria

Wisteria has a delicate sweet fragrance and attracts bees galore! It is the perfect plant for a gardener who needs to lure bees into her yard to pollinate the squash and tomatoes!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gooseneck Loosestrife - Attack!

If we are ever invaded by a foreign army, I have no worries. My gooseneck loosestrife can easily fend them off and keep our home safe.

I transplanted 12 modest twigs of loosestrife from my MIL's garden in Fall 2007. One of the twigs was mowed down by a bunny, and another mysteriously disappeared in the night.

hydrangea garden

I was amazed by how much the plants had filled in the following Spring.

hydrangeas and gooseneck loosestrife

This Spring, I am a little fearful for my yard, as not only has the loosestrife multiplied again, but they are breaking out of their containment area in what looks like an attempt to dominate the neighborhood. I should warn the neighbors. I have little doubt that they could take the cul de sac with minimal effort.

gooseneck loosestrife

My intention was for these plants to fill in this area with a thick lush blanket, and I am overjoyed to see my plan come to fruition in such a short period. If you enjoy the delicate curving heads of gooseneck loosestrife, but fear for your yard's safety, simply cut the bottom out of a large plastic pot, plunge the pot into the ground and plant the loosestrife in that containment area. It will probably keep the plants from spreading ... mostly. Loosestrife is certainly not deterred by poor soil either, so plant it anywhere!

gooseneck loosestrife

I have noticed some people landing on my blog in search of a way to remove gooseneck loosestrife. My suggestion is to dig it up. You would need to completely cultivate the entire area down to 18" to ensure you get all the roots. You won't get them all, but this will be a good start. As you see little baby heads poking back up, plunge your spade deep into the ground around it and extract that bad boy and his roots. I suggest this method over using Round Up although chemicals would be much easier. Please only use chemicals as a last resort. They make the earth cry.

In other news, these pink tulips that are interplanted with the loosestrife turned white this year!

tulips changing color from last year

I suspected that the reason is due to the hybrid bulbs reverting back to their parental form, and my horticulturist / landscape architect / master gardener friend Hillary confirmed that to be true. Pretty cool stuff.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Japanese Snowball

This is year 3 for the Japanese Snowball I purchased from Greenwood Nursery. Since the shrub was supposed to bloom its first year planted, I gave it an ultimatum this year - bloom or get composted. He decided to bloom. Smart choice.

I was surprised by the flat white blooms reminiscent of lacecap hydrangea flower heads, since the photo on the Greenwood Nursery website shows a snowball shaped flower. The blooms are slightly fragrant and lasted only 2 weeks, despite the Greenwood Nursery claim that the shrub blooms from May-September. I think they may have shipped me the wrong shrub!

japanese snowball finally blooming

The shrub is supposed to reach 8-10' feet, but since it looks like mine is not the shrub I ordered, I have no clue what size it will reach.

alpine snowcap and japanese snowball

I'm fine with this plant, although it's not what I wanted, but I'll leave it in the yard, mostly because it reminds me of a rubenesque pomeranian I once knew. Yes, I know that's weird.

This is not the only issue I have had with Greenwood Nursery, but it is another reason why I do not purchase plants from their website any more.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 11, 2009


The houses in our neighborhood are pretty close together. Each one is on just 1/3 of an acre, and really, no one knows where each property line ends and the next one begins. For those of us with fences, we can be pretty sure that the fence marks out the property line accurately, but who knows if the owners at that time had a survey taken before installing the fence.

To compensate for this lack of knowledge, whenever anyone cuts their grass, they usually just cut the grass up to the driveways on each side of the yard. Sure, this causes us to cut some of our neighbors' grass and them to cut some of ours, but who's measuring, right?

Apparently our neighbors to the right (who are trying to sell their house) are measuring.

1/4 strip of grass the neighbors won't cut

They left this 12" strip of grass when they cut the lawn last week. Isn't that just silly? You'd think we had done something to tick them off ... I don't think we have. Who knows.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

I finally got a rain barrel - for my birthday!

rain barrel

Ian has been "planning" to make me a rain barrel for over a year now and finally decided to just break down and buy one. It doesn't matter to me - I just want a rain barrel! With all the rain we've been getting, it will be full in no time!

I noticed that Home Depot has free instructions for making your own rain barrel that involves using a trash can. They claim their home made barrel costs only $32. I'm sorry to say though that a trash can will never withstand the pressure of all that water, and it will split wide open eventually. If you're thinking of making your own rain barrel, stop by a soda plant and ask for one of their used syrup barrels. They can only use them one time, and they are sufficiently strong to support the pressure of a rain barrel.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Valentino Basil

Check out this giant basil I got at Herb Fest this year.

valentino basil

It's huge, and it smells oh so good!

The vendor said it makes great pesto, and you can substitute the cabbage used in pigs in a blanket for basil. Sounds yummy to me!

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Flash Flood in the Garden

It has been raining here a lot lately. So much so that I have had to plan my planting sessions between showers. You really shouldn't transplant seedlings or sow seeds when rain is on the forecast, but we're going on vacation in a week and a half, and I need to get this stuff in the ground before then.

So I worked last night to hoe the weeds out of the bottom left bed and plant the tomatoes. I got up early this morning to hoe the weeds out of the bottom right bed and plant the eggplant and sow the green beans and soybeans.

Everything was a-ok for about 2 hours when the skies let loose a torrential downpour, the likes of which I have rarely seen in this area. Needless to say, the garden flooded.

Behold the great garden flood ...

garden flood

Ian and I booked it outside and covered the seedlings with upside pots to prevent their newly transplanted leaves from being pelted to oblivion, but there was nothing we could do for the lettuce and beans that are unfortunately positioned at the lower ends of the two beds.

Lesson learned - we need to drill some drainage holes in the lower boards so water can escape the clutches of our heavy clay soil. Since our drill does not operate on batteries, we found it best to wait for the rain to stop before taking the power cord out there to remedy the situation.

The downpour stopped just after we came in from the trying to save the plants, soaked from head to toe, but there is still a steady drizzle that will keep those beds full of water and prevent me from drilling holes to save the seedlings.

Blasted rain. It's never there when you need it, but won't leave when it's not welcome.

Labels: ,

Potted Plants

I started teaching Group Fitness classes last Fall, and I have set aside all my earnings as my "plant allowance." With my first round of allowance, I purchased all new ceramic planters for the back deck. The previous planters were those horrible fiberglass pots that had broken down to the point of uselessness.

potted plants

This pot holds lantana, verbana, petunias, strawflower and decorative grass. It's all very young now, but it will grow bigger and fill in the space nicely.

potted plants

This cute little blue pot holds osteospermum, angelonia, euphorbia. This is my favorite potted arrangement so far.

potted plants

The yellow pot holds lantana, mint, tri-colored sage and verbana.

potted plants

Ian's Aunt and Uncle gave us this birdbath for Christmas. We didn't realize it was a birdbath when we opened it. It looked like a shallow pot to me, and I immediately had a plan that involved succulents mapped out for it. We decided to use it as a birdbath instead though. The birds aren't interested in it, so I think it will get transformed in the future. I don't think they like it being so low.


The large blue pot currently holds a big elephant ear that has not yet sprouted. I am planning some other plants for that same pot, but I haven't found what I want yet.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mailbox Garden

I made a very feeble attempt to create some sort of mailbox planting three years ago, and it has become less spectacular and more overgrown with weeds with each year.

view of lawn spring 2008

I decided to just bite the bullet and invest some time into digging this area out, edging it and applying a nice deep layer of mulch. It took me over three hours to dig all this sod! Sod is evil.

new flower bed

I'm planning a pink/red motif in this bed. So far I have planted beardtongue and purple fountain grass. The beardtongue blooms pink, but the foliage is a lovely burgundy that will complement the burning bush in the Fall. I have some lovely gaillardia starters about ready for planting, but I haven't decided what else I want to put in this bed.

The neighborhood cats have decided to seed the bed with tootsie rolls. At this point, I think there are more cat droppings than soil in this bed! Too bad they won't grow ... Then again I'm afraid to consider what flower could come of a tootsie roll.

On another note, the clematis is finally pulling its weight in the yard this year! It probably helps that I remembered to fertilize it this Spring!


I like having this unfinished bed waiting for new plants, since I often see plants I want to purchase but no where to put them. Now I have an open-ended home for all my impulse buys, as long as they fit the color scheme, of course!

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

New Perennial Bed

I secretly plan to replace the entire front lawn with an English cottage garden style wonderland, but after digging up the latest flowerbed, I realize we'll never get it done on our own. We'll have to hire some serious help to dig all that sod.

We did have the foresight to hire Ian's brother, Trevor, to help with the latest project, and between the three of us, it took 4-1/2 hours to remove the sod and dig amendments into the soil. I then spent another 1-1/2 hours digging more amendments into the soil to prepare for planting.

The soil could still use MORE amendments, but after 1 huge bag of peat, 4 bags of manure and 12 bags of topsoil, this is as good as it gets for this bed. I'll mulch it in the next couple weeks, and eventually the mulch will break down and enrich the soil, but I think these plants will be just fine until then. I tried to select plants that can tolerate clay, so having slightly wet feet shouldn't kill them.

this year's big project

I grew some of the plants from seed and purchased the remainder. There are only so many types of perennials that can be grown from seed, and I don't want to be restricted to only those plants for the rest of my gardening career!

We've got foxglove, goldenrod, bee balm, garden phlox, coreopsis, stargazer lilies and some white paper cups.

butterfly weed starter

The white paper cups are protecting the coneflower and butterfly weed starter plants. It's best to slip these cups (with bottoms cut out) over all types of starters to keep them from getting sun-scorched or eaten by naughty insects that like to prey on the weak.

Coneflower is really easy to grow from seed and germinates with a high success rate. Butterfly weed is a little more difficult, but the plants are pretty strong. I suspect I will lose one of the four I planted though.

The sky decided to let loose with a torrential downpour last night around 9pm, so Ian and I had to rush outside to cover the little starters with upside down pots. They would definitely have been pelted to death with all that water!

We are planning on edging the bed with some type of flat rock, and I need to find some purple Veronica. After that, it will be finished! I guess I should cut the roses back a little more too, so the plants have a bit of growing room.

Labels: , , ,