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Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Peaceful End

The weather is cool, the leaves are falling, and it's time to say goodnight to my garden. 
2015 was a good year but I'm ready for a break.

'Peggy's Delight' zinnias with silene 'Prairie Fire', pink coneflowers, and helianthus brought in on the wind.

The basil was weird but the zinnias were beautiful.

'Persian Carpet' zinnias

Deadheading casualties

The closest I ever came to the meme In a Vase on Monday was 
Stuffed in a Jar on Friday.

New garden art was added

White alyssum grows next to the birdhouse. I loved this surprise so much I've already scattered more alyssum seeds around my patio steps. 

and alyssum seeds I thought had been overheated and died were ignored by the birds when I threw them out as bird seed and grew along my patio steps instead.

Monarch on a knautia bloom.

Monarchs flew in and I had a few caterpillars.

This picture is too bright, but it was so beautiful in the moment that I had to take a few photos. A young miscanthus 'Morning Light' against phlox, helianthus, and blue mist flower.

I tried to capture as much of the magic of my summer garden as I could even if the light was never quite right.

13 years ago this area was moist and sunny but as the trees have matured it's become one of the driest spots in the garden. The struggling monarda was removed and replaced with dry shade loving plants. The beautyberry will grow to be about 4 ft x 4 ft and will quickly fill the back of this border. 

This fall, after redesigning parts of my garden, I marked bare root plants and other small transplants with orange flags and bamboo stakes to help me remember where they are.

Most of the water directed towards the 'Little Zebra' miscanthus near my back door ends up falling through the empty space between my pots. I was tired of watering the patio so I came up with this solution instead. A 14" long watering spike from the always fabulous Lee Valley Tools was placed at angle into the root ball. I added an old copper funnel to the spike so I'd have direct access to the roots without having to worry about watering the patio.   

The watering spike is lined with mesh to keep it from being clogged by the roots. The funnel is hidden by the foliage but still obvious enough that I can find it when I need to water. 

To prevent small problems from becoming big disasters, a combo that makes my blood boil, I looked for ways to solve the problems that cropped up this summer so I don't have to deal with them next year. 

Part of the shade garden on a cloudy, rainy morning.

The soil has been amended and mulched and I'm ready to put the garden to bed. 

Custom art work by Frivolous Tendencies.

This is my last post for 2015. I'll be back January 1, 2016.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Clean Up in Aisle One: Redoing the Redo

I've decided I'm tired of learning things the hard way. From now on, I'd like all future mistakes to reveal themselves before they happen in order to make sure they never happen at all. The front butterfly garden I designed in fall 2012 has just been redesigned. While this may not seem like a big deal, it's at least the fifth design this spot has sported and I'm still trying to get it right.

It all started with the pink 'Rose Queen' salvia. Reported to be cheerful, resilient, and carefree, she was hard not to love. Spotted hanging out with all the other sassy salvias at the local hardware store, I bought every pot I could find and brought her home. She basked in the high heat of the back patio while I waited for cooler temps, a rotten flirt in her little black pot. She told naughty jokes and made the sedum blush. She was definitely my kind of plant.

'Rose Queen' salvia with orange milkweed and coreopsis in 2013

Young salvia nemorosa plants grow erect for the first few seasons and then begin to sprawl, suffocating everything nearby. As the plant ages, the foliage flops to the side while new growth emerges from the center. There are very few blooms during this period. Once I cut it back to speed up the process, the garden looks like it's been scalped.

Welcome to the Big Ugly!

But that damn salvia flopped faster than a cheap floozy so out she went. My garden is a high class joint! The salvia was suffocating the milkweed, which grew long skinny chicken legs as they struggled to grow through the mat of foliage. The coreopsis, feeling burdened by the demands of gravity, refused to bloom til almost September and then collapsed forward, exhausted from the rigor of standing erect. What had once been a beautifully orchestrated sweep of bright bloomers had become a hideous mess that left me cringing every time I passed. It was painfully obvious I needed to redesign this bed.... again.


The coreopsis are underwhelming, didn't bloom til late summer and are a pain in the butt to deadhead. Pawn them off on a friend. 

Beauty shot!

Harsh reality

There's too much salvia.  Keep the 'Caradonna', which is a much better plant than 'Rose Queen'. Plant swap the 'Rose Queen'.

The salvia looked good for about two weeks in early summer. 'Caradonna' is dark purple. Two huge catmint 'Walkers Low' anchor this hot, sunny, dry bed.

There are too many daffodils and the decaying foliage suffocates everything. Dig them up and find new spots, only to realize I don't have enough new spots.

The leaves and upright growth habits are all very similar giving the bed a boring, monotonous look. Add plants that don't all look the same.

Clockwise from the top left: 'Magic Carpet' super dwarf spirea, 'Phenomenal' lavender rescued from the back garden, 'Prairie Splendor' dwarf echinacea, a 2 ft tall cultivar that blooms earlier and longer than other cultivars, 'Moonshine' yarrow. 

The milkweed breaks dormancy much later than the salvia and doesn't grow well squished and shaded in between other plants. They need more sun to grow robust and full. Move them all into one spot away from the salvia.

I doubled the size of this milkweed patch by consolidating them all to one section.

There are no features connecting this bed to the rest of the front garden and the lack of balance and continuity bugs me. Add more spirea.

I added five dwarf 'Magic Carpet' spirea to the front bed to harmonize with the 'Little Princess' spirea near the front steps. Because I have the geospatial awareness of a rock, I bought a cheap little 30" hula hoop to help me visualize how large the spirea would be at their mature size. The orange flags mark the planting boundary so I knew how much space I had to work with.

Here is the redesigned bed. The design is basic but as long as it grows well, attracts pollinators, and is pretty, I'm happy. The milkweed went dormant as soon as I transplanted it but it will be back next spring.

Except for the spots where the text wouldn't show up against the fresh mulch, the text color matches the flower color. 

The two sides of the bed have more continuity and no longer feel like a disconnected mess. I'm hoping this is my final redesign! As for that sassy pink salvia, I saved a few plants for a bed on the other side of the driveway. It's hard to let a good jokester go. I tucked her in next to the sedum who immediately began to giggle and blush. Now if I can just keep her upright....

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

All the Wobbly Bits

I once read an article about a gorgeous garden that was accompanied by a photo showing every plant perfectly positioned and well behaved. There was no slouching, leaning, or canoodling. There were no secret smooches between the flirty pink zinnias and that broad shouldered basil. If that garden were a party, they'd be drinking milk and playing bingo. Underneath those high collars and long skirts, those dames were trussed to the hilt. Stakes, wires, and cages kept every one upright, uptight, and totally in line. Meanwhile, back at the Casa, most of my garden was going commando.

Don't get too close! You could poke an eye out!

While that wasn't a problem for the plants whose wobbly bits were still quite small, one of my favorites needed some help. Blessed with the type of buxom beauty other perennials can only dream about, 'Blue Fortune' agastache needed something that would keep the girls perky and immune to the perils of gravity. It needed to be comfortable but attractive, with a bit of ooh la la that would reveal a touch of something special when her shoulders were almost bare. If she was going to end her free-wheeling naked days, she needed to look good doing it.

A custom made wrought iron plant support from Battle Hill Forge was added last winter to give the agastache a sturdy frame to help hold up the weight of her summer growth. It's hidden under all the foliage.

With the plant no longer leaning on the ground, I had enough room to add helenium 'Tie Dye'.

I placed these around the plants in the winter before the ground froze. Curly fiddle head finials give them a bit of flair. 

'Blue Fortune' agastache is one the top pollinator attracting plants in my garden. The beautiful blue blooms were past their peak in these photos but the bees weren't giving up. 

It's easily grown in full sun in slightly moist soil. 

$10 says she pops a seam when she stops holding her breath.

I'd pulled out a mountain of mist flowers before I took this picture. I found the asters in the middle.

But at the top of the Sunnyside bed, things had gotten totally out of hand. An invasion of blue mist flowers combined with a lack of pruning left my struggling 'Monch' asters overflowing their cups and spilling the goods onto the neighboring plants. The plant support I'd given them was the equivalent of a botanical bikini but they needed full support. The girls were floppy, bouncy, and in the way.

'Monch' asters are a bit floppy and need to be pruned by half in early summer. Ooops....

After cutting back the aster, I added another plant support from Battle Hill. The metal grid will help keep the asters from flopping but the open middle will allow them the lush looseness that I enjoy. If I don't need both grids, they're removable and can be used on other supports they've made. My garden's free-wheeling hippie days might be coming to an end for a few plants, but at least they're going out in style.

Welcome to the garden, darling!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Come As You Are

Sometimes the lighting is never right 

and the pictures will never show what you see everyday.

They will always be too dark, too light, or full of garden clutter.

But so what. Does it really matter?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just Five

Indie from Red House Garden recently blasted with me a bucket of blogger love, which includes the request to reveal something new about yourself. 

Something About Me You May Find Surprising:

I hate camping. Just the idea of sleeping on the ground in a tent makes my back hurt. My idea of camping includes a real mattress and indoor plumbing. Here are a few examples:

Yes, please!

Why, of course, I'll stay here!

However, I might be persuaded to change my mind.....

Quotes to Live By:

As a writer I love the combinations of brilliant words into something powerful and true but the quotes I refer to the most are my own.

"Life is short. Love big."

Death has come often to my family with few goodbyes or peaceful exits and the brutal murder of  a young cousin was life changing. When you're with someone who is amazing and makes you smile, reach out to them, hug them, express how you feel, and open your heart enough to let them know you mean every word. You may never get another chance.

"You can do this."

We are all capable of so much more than we realize. It's ok to be scared but it's not ok to just stop, too full of fear and self-doubt to move forward. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself, because you can do this! 

Which movie can you watch over and over?

I've lost track of how many times I've seen Bridget Jones Diary. I relate stunningly well to her willingness to say exactly what she feels and when I've had a rough day or just need to de-stress, Bridget and a glass of wine will always do the trick. Plus, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are rather easy on the eyes. ;o) 

My favorite garden memory:

When my daughter was one she discovered that when squeezed, ripe cherry tomatoes would squirt from her fingers leaving a delightful mess. She grabbed as many tomatoes off the vine as she could reach and ran around the garden squealing and laughing, covered in soil and red pulp. She was oblivious to everything but the pure sensation of joy. It was a great reminder not to take my garden so seriously.

My daughter, age 1 in 1996

My favorite blog posts:

Two of my favorite posts are about two of my favorite guys: my son and James Bond. The James Bond Garden Tour is a piece of pure female fantasy while Growing a Man is about my son's decision to join the Army instead of attending college. While James Bond only exists within the pages of a novel or on a movie screen, as a combat medic my son is a true hero.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Kiss: Gardening with Gustav

Have you ever seen a piece of art and imagined it as a garden? I am not a horticulturalist, garden designer or landscape architect. My only design experience comes from moving seventeen times in thirty four years and always having to cram my stuff into a new house and find a way to make it look appealing. But I am an art lover.

My garden curves around an elliptical lawn.

I recently returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary where I was able to finally see in person the art that inspires my garden. When my husband was given an offer to stay in the apartment of work colleague in Vienna, we cashed in some frequent flyer miles, packed our bags and headed for Austria. Exhausted from a long flight but determined to stay awake to adjust to a different time zone, we dropped our bags off and hopped the tram to the Belvedere. 

Most of the trams were sleek and modern, but we ended up on an older one a few times. They were old fashioned and quaint but still in excellent condition.

Vienna is a very clean, orderly city with clocks everywhere. I don't think they run on Tammytime. Even the plants were expected to conform and behave.

The Belvedere Gallery is home to Gustav Klimt's iconic painting, The Kiss and was in the midst of an extended Klimt exhibit. Seeing amazing art can be a physical, visceral experience. A huge square painting, I love the richness of the decorative abstraction, the sunniness of the gold leaf, and the focus on the couple. Although art critics have implied that The Kiss is a prelude to a more passionate ending, I don't see it that way at all. To me, it is simply a tender, blissful moment between two people in love, which is more powerful and enduring than anything accomplished while naked.

Gustav Klimt was a rebellious painter, determined to do everything his way. The woman in the painting is rumored to be his best friend and lover, Emilie Floge, a wise woman who refused to marry him but endured his tendency to bed his models, fathering over 14 children.

I thought the windows peeking out from the roof 
on this house in Budapest looked like eyes.

While this may look like a set from a Disney movie, it's known as the Fisherman's Bastion and offers incredible views of Budapest.

Like the embrace in the painting, my garden is a hug, the edges pulling inward to envelop those in the center. It is a soft place, calm and cheerful. I have been told it isn't edgy enough, spiky enough, or tropical enough. But my garden is exactly enough of what I need. My garden is my art, a steady embrace that pulls me in and keeps me centered. It is the novel I will never write and the plants quirkier than any character I could imagine. It is the painting and sculpture I have no ability to create. It is my own kiss.

I thought the Japanese beetles would devour my roses while I was gone, but a few Abraham Darby roses bloomed unnoticed and I found this beauty in the garden waiting for me.