Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two Thousand Pounds of Carpe Diem

Before you read any further, I must warn you I'm a fairly energetic person. While this statement is in direct conflict with the sloth calendar that hangs in my bedroom for mornings I'm so groggy I need the type of empathy only an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day can provide, as a general rule once I've had a few hours to wake up, my energy level switches from a zombie-like trance to a steady simmer that keeps me going til I collapse into bed.


I don't recall posing for this picture...


Last month I decided to extend my rain garden after realizing a 13 foot section of my lawn was full of standing water and mosquitoes. Tired of muddy dogs and of dealing with a problem not solved by planting clover or allowing native carex to take over, I had a single day available to complete the project before a week of rain slowed me down. With my family only able to provide limited help, I knew if I wanted to get it done, I'd have to do it myself.

So I did. It only took eight hours.


The drainage pipe from our sump pump as well as a pipe from under our patio kept this area so saturated it stunk.


This is the swale that leads to our rain garden. It is a total bog most of the year and grass only grows in a drought. It is also right in the middle of the dog path my dogs use to run about the yard. Since one of my dogs is blind, deciding to rip this up meant I'd have to train him to cross the new riverbed.


I bought 1500 pounds of cheap river rock to form the base of the bed.


Because the new extension would be feeding directly into the existing rain garden, it was vital I kept the soil at the same grade it was before I started digging. While this sounds challenging, it wasn't. I simply dug up the soil and flipped it over, grass and all. Very little soil needed to be removed, which sped up the process. I used water permeable landscape fabric made from recycled soda bottles as a weed barrier.


Digging the extension and filling it with rocks took eight hours. Later in the week, I added 500 pounds of decorative rocks and created stepping stones from beautiful pale green flagstone. Almost everything in my garden is soft and curving so I kept the new grass path as curvy as possible. 



Scout went blind from diabetes.

My blind dog Scout navigates around the garden based on surface texture and freaked out when he discovered a chunk of his lawn has been replaced with a new river bed. Despite sliding a plate of bacon and eggs across the flagstones to convince him to cross, he simply ate the food when he got to the other side and then avoided the rocks.


I added Japanese iris (iris ensata) and variegated sweet flag (acorus) to keep it from looking like a shallow grave.


Native carex grass has already taken over but I don't mind. I looks more natural. I needed plants that would thrive in wet clay as well as survive a four dog squirrel chase. 


Japanese iris 'Butterflies in Flight'



I filled this little area with blue eyed grass since my dogs like to run through this part of the garden to bark at people walking by. It stands up to dog traffic quite well.

The new extension blends seamlessly into the existing rain garden.




The caladiums, which like well drained soil, are planted in a pot that's been sunk into the ground. If this area fills with too much water, I can just lift the pot til the subsoil drains. But they're the perfect compliment to all that fabulous purple, so I had to think of a way to work them into the design.


I finished off the project by adding a few of my sand dollar fossils to the garden. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Kindness Quotient

Most gardeners, I've discovered, are a rather supportive bunch. They're forgiving when you explain that you have yet to find dogs whose anuses are purely decorative and that despite having just scooped, they've already crapped in the garden or wallowed in the anemones like a furry, farting hippo. They're kind when you explain that you didn't kill your plants but rather they were heaved from the soil, kicked out of the garden by Mother Nature herself, the moodiest of dames. 



Bug party on a summer flowering bulb I can't remember the name of.

However, despite the love we often share with others, we can be absurdly critical of our own gardens. We apologize, explain, and rationalize our decisions, fearful of being judged. Sometimes the gardener we need to be the kindest to is our self.



I paused while weeding to take this photo. Self seeded orange milkweed is allowed to grow where it lands. In the fall I'll transplant it to empty spots in the garden. A few chunks of yellowroot (Xanthoriza simplicisima) have broken away from the group under the viburnum and are headed for the lawn where death by mower awaits. I didn't realize I'd purchased different mulch until it was too late. Oh well... 

This massive shrub was planted about three feet from house when I purchased it as a wee thing. I could blame it on a lack of research, exhaustion, cluelessness, or any variety of ailments that turn the most rational slab of humanity into a quivering blob of contradictions but I won't. My viburnum tooclosetothehouseum offers privacy and a perfect spot to bird watch. I'm done being embarrassed about it. As a matter of fact, I'd rather save my embarrassment for something much more interesting such as naked ping pong at midnight with a band of drunken gypsies or horrible karaoke. 



Winter sown calendula with variegated mint and a begonia I've named Hans. 


I just love these simple flowers.


These leaves should be dark green...

As for my calendula, I've decided to ignore the spider mites who are tunneling through its leaves after decimating my phlox. The Spider Mite Artist Colony has created custom variegation, making my calendula a masterpiece of insect artistry while the phlox sprouts new growth. The only true damage they caused was to my ego and I've survived worse. 



Friday, June 12, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

I wonder what we would see in people if we peeled away the layers and saw their heart, tender and raw. How much of their true selves would fall pulsing into our laps, their mask of flesh and bone stripped bare. Before I am a writer, blogger, or gardener, I am a storyteller and my quirky personality echoes through my posts. My writing is a piece of me, genuine and exposed, a small piece of my heart in black text on a screen.



'Bridal Wreath' spirea was blooming profusely in the cottage gardens
 of Ward and Algonquin Islands.

Writing a blog is less about sharing photos of our plants than of telling the stories of our gardens, our love of gardening, and ultimately, of ourselves. We lay bare our passions as we dig, design, and write. Little bits of ourselves slip out in the cracks between the words we chose and those we don't. Every blog is a voice, a story, a small piece of someone, neatly packaged and ready to be opened.



I love the textures, colors, and layering of this combo.

Do you ever wonder about the people behind the blogs? I recently attended the 2015 Blogger Fling held in Toronto. But as much as I wanted to see all the incredible gardens, I really went for the people. 



Peony from Marion Jarvie's garden

I went to spend three days with the amazing people who write the blogs I devour. I wanted to immerse myself in a community of gardeners who understand the need and desire to share their stories of gardening and life. I went to Toronto to add their voice to mine, to let it weave into the story of my garden because in the end, regardless of whether we tell our story in words or photos, we are all storytellers.



The view from a steep wooded garden overlooking the lake.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Flower Explosion at the Shrubapalooza

I wait all year for this.


It is the shrub equivalent of a party and it's always held in my garden.


My giant, floofy old fashioned deutzia 'Pink A Boo', a magnificent shrub with an absurd name, begins to bloom. 


The little pink buds hang fat and round before popping open to reveal a soft white heart.


There must be thousands of flowers.


The lamium under the shrub has grown into the grass and clover path that leads from the gate to the garden.


Seed grown dwarf tithonia 'Goldfinger' and basil are too manly for my pink deutzia. But I think they secretly like her.

Once it's done blooming, it will be cut back by almost 75%, fertilized heavily with compost and watered deeply. It only blooms on last years growth. If I don't prune it, it won't bloom.


A 'Peggy Martin' climbing rose, sent to me by accident due to a fabulous computer error, lives across the garden on the fence I share with a neighbor.


It's nearly thornless and blooms at the same time as the deutzia, enveloping my garden in a pink flower sandwich.


I wait all year for this, too.


'Roguchi' clematis grow through the rose canes.


'Peggy Martin' will bloom on and off all summer.

Tradescantia blooms along with the sweetspire.

'Little Henry' sweetspire rounds out the guest list.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Follow Your Arrow

I don't have a funny story  

 I saw this copper pipe at the hardware store and thought it was beautiful.

or anything introspective to say.

I threaded beaded fan pulls through the pipe to replicate falling water.

I don't even have a joke to tell. 

 Yellow pimpernel flowers in the sedum.

I just have pictures that make me happy

Blue eyed grass in the rain garden.

 and music that makes me even happier.

 Roses and knautia in the Sunny Side Garden. 

"Say what you think

 'Night Owl' rose

Love who you love


Native clematis 'Crispa' is very easy to grow. The thick flowers remind me of an octopus.

'Cause you just get

 Clematis along the rain garden.


So many trips 'round the sun

Handmade birdhouse from Mike Merritt Art.

Yeah, you only

I cut this 'President' clematis back to the ground last fall, 
dug it up, and replanted it. It survived and is blooming.

Only live once. 
So follow your arrow where ever it points."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Little Balls of Unlove

I do not like stabby plants. 
I do not like them in a pot. 
I do not like them when it's hot.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like those stabby plants
that make me bleed right through my pants.



Apparently, as a gardener I should have an appreciation for all plants, even those that slice and maim, such as agaves and cactus and I do. But it's the type of appreciation you extend to a crocodile when it's just taken a bite of an anaconda. I'm simply glad the croc grabbed the anaconda before it could grab me. I have no desire to garden in chain mail or leather chaps and am convinced most agaves have names not quite honest enough in their depictions of the plants potential. While agave 'Baby Boy' sounds rather sweet, had it been named ' T Rex' or 'Piranha' I'd find the tag less misleading.



Each of these little killers are $20 and guaranteed to die this winter.

However, it occurred to me that maybe if I spent some time with one of these botanical bad asses, I might change my mind. Perhaps my dislike was simply based on a perception of impending slaughter, rather than the reality of a plant that simply needed its own room. 




This echeveria scored a perfect 10 on the Snuggle Scale but it isn't cold hardy here, either.

But a trip to the garden center sent me running back to my comfort zone of soft, touchable plants. Several rows of overpriced, non-cold hardy agaves sat plunked in the middle of more mild mannered plants, sharp spears edging each leaf. While I appreciated their drought tolerance and ability to take down small mammals, I stayed away. I drifted towards the cactus and found a short, round sphere that looked like it's spines might be survivable should I accidentally veer too close. I'd barely touched the tip before yelling out, "That little sucker stabbed me!" Although the word I used might have rhymed with sucker, it was actually much stronger. Oops...



I do not like cactus, agaves or any of their murderous brethren and do not want them in my garden. Ever. If that means I have to surrender my status as a True and Genuine Gardener to pick up a card for the Cuddle Club, then so be it. I'll be in the hammock petting my plants.



I much prefer clematis, known to be non-lethal and unstabby.



 I think this is 'Pink Champagne'.