Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Little Wacky Wisdom

When my son turned two, I had an epiphany: If I could keep him alive for two years, maybe I could also keep a plant alive. If I planted stuff he could pull out of the ground or play with then it might work for both of us. So I asked my neighbor to till up a patch of my military housing lawn and planted onions, beets, tomatoes, pumpkins, and zinnias. The garden and my son both thrived.

Over the past 20 years I've learned a few things that are always true, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. Regardless of the weather, soil, or state I'm living in, these are my constants.

1. One person's crazy is another's creative solution.


Once I realized my 'Mint Crisp' lonicera was going to be too vigorous for my threaded rod arbor, I needed to find a way to increase the surface area available to the vine without increasing the size of the arbor. (Ignore the green plastic fence. I'm keeping the dogs way from this area until I've filled in all the holes they've dug.)



I wrapped clear plastic reinforced tubing around the arbor and secured it with zip ties. I was able to accomplish my goal and horrify the neighbors at the same time. Score! I'm training the vine to grow through and around the tubing to eventually cover it up. 

2. Never be afraid to try something unconventional.


Did I mention the curtain I have hanging on the OUTSIDE of my house to block reflected heat from frying my plants?


Yes, this does look ridiculous, but it's highly effective at stopping the laser-like reflected heat coming off this window in the afternoon. A huge red salvia 'Maraschino' and tall zinnias are planted in the pots in front of the curtain. By mid-summer there are so many plants blocking the curtain I barely notice it.

'Maraschino' salvia 
Summer 2013

3. Do not prune when angry.


 When she reaches for the chainsaw, he'd better run.

4. It's your garden. Do whatever you want. No ones opinion matters as much as yours.


A gardener in a nearby town used to change the decor around the bicycles to match the seasons. I absolutely loved it and would go out of my way to drive past the house. His garden, his house, his rules.

5. Compost is your garden's best friend.



The sunny border in early June 2013

In the past 10 years I've been working in this garden I've used tons and tons of compost. 

6. Forgetting to turn the soaker hoses off and letting them run for over 12 hours will leave your rain-starved garden very well watered.



 June 2013
You know it's dry when even the Shasta daisies and orange milkweed are thirsty.



7. National Garden Naked Day probably shouldn't be taken seriously unless you're a nudist or have a very tall fence.


Check out the guy on the far left: He looks a bit sad to have been given such a small pot.

8. There is no such thing as "Popping into the garden for a few minutes". You'll be gone for hours. Just admit it.



Part of my container garden
Summer 2013

9. Mother Nature always wins.




"So you think my Rose of Sharon needs pruning? Then thanks for knocking it over for me!"

10. Don't give up.


Monday, May 26, 2014

A Garden Ramble

Today has been a quiet day. When you're a military daughter, wife, and mother Memorial Day means more than just cookouts and a chance to sleep in. It's a reminder of how grateful I am they all came home. I spent the morning in the garden, the best place for sorting through my thoughts.


This urn of hens and chicks sailed through our bitterly cold winter without any problems.


 A lot of my sedums seemed to have thrived in the sub-zero temps this winter.


I thought this pot was a bit boring so I added some rocks and a cool woolly thyme.


I'm a tactile person and love plants with soft or interesting textures.


This native clematis crispa is taking over the fence.


 But I don't mind. It's flowers remind me of an octopus.


Centaurea dealbata is also known as Persian Cornflower.


It grows at the edge of the rain garden in a moist but well drained spot.


Anthemis 'Susanna Mitchell', also known as marguerite, is an early bloomer.


'Sarah Bernhardt' peony and 'Evisix' clematis


Bowman's Root and anemones
I added some river oats (chasmanthium) to the spot between the crepe myrtle and the Bowman's Root but it's still small.


I plopped these 'Berry Fizz' heucherella into this spot last fall after nearly killing them in too much sun and they're thriving.


They have beautiful dappled foliage that my cheapo camera managed to NOT capture.


Honeybee on the tradescantia


The stamens remind me of fuzzy feathers.


I've decided to move my sweet potatoes out of the NanoFarm and into Pottersville, my container garden. The foliage will cover the ugly little concrete chunks holding up my pots and cascade down the steps. At least that's the plan.


Every year I grow Bush Porto Rico sweet potatoes ordered from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They're excellent for small spaces and the potatoes are creamier than the ones in the grocery store.


 The shade garden is filling in. This area receives morning sun and afternoon shade.


'Blue Ice' amsonia and a pink penstemon digitalis grow in dry partial shade. Native white penstemon digitalis and Western Indian Physic (porteranthus stipulatus) growing in the back will be blooming soon.


 I bought this off the sale table a few years ago.


Native honeysuckle has taken over the fence in the dog run but no one minds.


Mystery pink clematis


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The End of the Affair

Geoffrey Chaucer is a jerk. When he coined the phrase "All good things must come to an end", he must have either had a sadistic streak that enjoyed misery or been mostly morose and resigned to rottenness and despair. Either way, one of my favorite roses ended up in the trash and it's all his fault.


I've finally found the culprit behind the black spot pandemic in my roses. I should be happy, elated, and all those other joyful synonyms but I'm not. I'm just frustrated. Graham Thomas was supposed to be perfect: handsome, charming, and full of stamina. I swooned over his vigorous, full blossoms and admired his glossy foliage. 


Graham Thomas was my own personal Superman.


I thought we'd be together forever. 


But my expectations were just too high. Prone to black spot and too weak to fight his enemy, he gave in, took off his cape and slowly defoliated. Naked was not his best look and I began to avert my eyes. Organic fungicides and sprays were applied, his fragile ego stroked, and a long winters rest given to recover.


But old habits die hard and as soon as his new foliage burst with vigor from thick stems, black spots began to appear. I had hoped the Rose Rescue Plan would save Graham, but it just wasn't so. There were no sad love songs or weepy poems in this break up, just a shovel up his ass and a toss to the curb. When I'm done, I'm done. Adios!


But I miss him. Not the spotty, scrawny stick languishing against my fence but the handsome, sturdy Graham I fell in love with. If Chaucer hadn't fashioned that stupid quote, we might still be together.


After heaving him to the trash, I had only one true option: I needed to go shopping. Retail garden therapy with my best gals and a glass of wine were in order. My dogs and I headed for the home office, slammed the door, and bought some plants. No one dared intervene.

I needed more of what never lets me down, dresses in spots, or looks pathetic against a fence. I needed clematis, the queen of all climbers.


I purchased Fair Rosamond and Sugar Sweet Lilac
fragrant clematis from Brushwood Nursery.


Fair Rosamond was planted in Graham's empty spot and Sugar Sweet Lilac is mingling nearby with swamp milkweed and phlox. The affair is over and the good thing has ended. Goodbye, Mr Thomas!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Everything That's Right


* Having a butterfly land on my arm and crawl across my back


One of its wings was bent but it managed to fly away after I moved it to this columbine.


*Organizing a plant swap and spending the afternoon with wonderful gardeners


This is a great way to add to the garden as well as pass along all your seedlings.


*Scoring a new shade plant labeled "Native Wildflower"
It's striped wintergreen, a native that grows in dry shade.



*A pot full of wintersown annual linaria 'Fairy Bouquet'


These were the first seeds among my wintersown plants to sprout.