Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Almost Arbor Update

Blame it on the bunnies but I can't decide whether I should be horrified or happy. Last spring I built a funky metal arbor out of odds and ends I found at our local hardware store. My master plan involved growing annual cypress vines up the arbor to woo the hummingbirds and make my neighbors jealous. It didn't work. By mid-June those cute, fuzzy demons of plant death had chomped them off at ground level. They didn't even stick around to eat what they had slaughtered. They just chomped and ran.


Life at the Casa


Cypress Vine

I fumed and stomped but with a vacation on the horizon, I decided to just ignore the carnage and put my faith in the beans growing up the other side. But when I returned in July, the wimpy beans had barely grown in our freakishly cool, soggy weather. Determined to have something growing up my arbor I rushed to our local nursery, bought the first plant with arbor covering potential, and stuffed it in the ground surrounded by a ragged bunny barricade. It grew.


In three months my Mint Crisp honeysuckle grew seven feet. If it continues this rate of growth, I can expect ten more feet of delicious vanilla scented flowering vine to erupt next summer. I'm not sure whether to be excited or slightly terrified.


'Mint Crisp' honeysuckle leaves has variegated leaves and white vanilla scented flowers. It can reach 30 feet tall. I may have ignored that fact when I purchased it.


These just might be tears of happiness...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Holiday Hiatus

The redesigning is done and the bulbs have been planted. The mulch sits patiently while the soaker hoses lie in tangled heaps, waiting their turn. It's almost time to just throw in the trowel and call it a year so that's what I'm doing. 


I wish I could say that by next week I'll be snug in this hammock with a fruity drink in hand but I won't be. Instead I'll be preparing for Thanksgiving and up to my eyeballs in student projects. The closest I'll come to this photo is a mango smoothie and a slice of coconut rum cake. Big sigh....

It's time for a blogcation to focus on other priorities. But here are a few parting shots before we meet again in January.


My Stellar Pink dogwood and part of the dogwood garden


As much as I love my summer garden, I love the flaming colors of fall, too. There are no soloists in my fall garden, just a chorus in sweet harmony. 


The 'Yoshino' cherry was a brilliant orange but most of the leaves fell before I captured many photos. It was a wonderful way to greet each morning.


'Peach Sorbet' blueberries have wonderful fall foliage and were designed to grow in a container. Plus, the berries are really sweet.


 White heart leaf aster seed heads and purple blue plumbago foliage


Creeping raspberry has thick fuzzy foliage with a heavy texture that holds its fall color all winter.


These pots are right outside my kitchen door. I stuffed the pot of daylilies with snowdrop bulbs so I can see them as soon as they sprout. It's like a little present I planted for myself. :o)


These pots are across from the big daylily pot and were stuffed with hyacinth bulbs. I purposely planted the bulbs in pots close to the house for maximum impact. I wanted to be able to see them before heading out for work.


'Mardi Gras abelia

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mighty Fine

Dishes lay jumbled in the sink and unread newspapers clutter the table. A pile of bagged bulbs lean against the wall, slack and loose, like drunks on a curb. Fat dogs snore in their beds as music plays and I dance a small step, hips swaying to the beat.

My list of garden chores grows shorter and my plants slowly surrender to winter sleep, tucked into earthen beds under a blanket of leaves. Cool spring rains filled my garden with lush growth that hid black spot and acthracnose. Summer downpours left a pile of rotting plants that would have thrived in our August drought. I ignore the clutter and continue to dance. Happiness settles deep and I can't help but smile. My garden, like my life, isn't perfect but it's mighty fine and that's enough for me.

These are a few of my favorite summer pictures.


My Peggy Martin rose mostly escaped the black spot plague that devastated my other roses.


The Peggy Martin rose is also known as "The Rose That Survived Hurricane Katrina". 


'Etoille Violet' clematis and a gourd birdhouse form a local artist


'Baltyk' clematis clambering over my mosaic pot


Lucy in the dog run that circles one of the shade gardens. 


Southeastern native, spigelia marylandica


Shasta daisies and self seeded verbena bonariensis


The new front butterfly garden that I always forgot to photograph


The Sunny Side


 'Schwellenberg' yarrow by the rain garden.
I doubled the size of the rain garden this fall and ended up moving this yarrow to a drier spot.


Lilies, monarda, and coneflowers in the dogwood garden


Part of the container garden


Bumblebee on the sedum


Words to live by  :o)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Welcome to the Dark Side: Redesigning the Shade Garden


The beginning of the shade garden before I extended the beds. I extended them another 18 inches or so after this photo was taken.

I stand in the garden and stare. I do this often, all this standing and staring. I pace silently, my eyes scanning the shady beds, irritation rising in my throat like bile. The plants lie jumbled, a dog pile of leaves and stems. Brunnera squeezes past the hellebores for a quick glimpse of the sun, stretching across desiccated hostas and pop up violets to announce itself with a slight yelp.


The area at the base of the river birch is so dry several hosta nearly died.


 The top of this bed is at the bottom of a small hill and is moister than the area at the front. It's hard to tell in these photos, but this area is on a very slight slope.

Shallow and badly designed, I stop photographing this area come summer when spring blossoms no longer hide the mess. Perennials planted nine years ago clog the bed like commuters at rush hour, a blob of green in a narrow bed. The beds need to be extended and new plants added. I stop and mentally scan plant lists I've cataloged over the years. Bone dry shade: the list is short and frustration swells. Epimediums needed to be divided, the brunnera rescued, and the hostas given moister soil. The Solomon's Seal were slowly drowning in a sea of anemone canadensis and I couldn't find the bigroot geraniums or purple euphorbia. I analyze and fret.


This area is moister than the rest of the shade garden and features spigellia, Japanese anemones 'Honorine Jobert', pulmonaria 'Moonshine', as well as thornless blackberries and other perennials.

What if I pick all the wrong plants? What if you don't? What if it all looks craptastic next year? What if it doesn't? This is going to be a ton of work. Yes, it is. Now get your butt out there and get it done.

So I did.

I started by increasing the depth of the beds by about three to four feet and creating a deep curve. The curve helps catch rain and trap it in a drainage basin for the river birch. It also keeps this area moister. I removed all the sod with a shovel, laid it out to dry so the worms would return to the moister soil underneath, and then shook as much soil as possible from the grass before composting the remaining turf. Almost 40 bags of composted leaf mold were used to fill in the new extension. The hardest part of the redesign was finding plants that would thrive in dry shade but also attract pollinators. Plants that attract and support wildlife are marked with an asterisk. 

I've broken down each each area of the garden into different sections based on their light and moisture conditions. The area below receives morning sun and afternoon shade and has moist, well draining soil. Because visualizing how this will all look next spring/summer takes a bit of imagination, I've created collages to highlight the different plants I chose.


With the exception of the dwarf lespedeza, which I've already killed once, and the 'Lodden's Anna' campanula, all of the plants in this area are from other spots in the garden. 

The shade garden merges with my mostly sunny Founding Flowers garden, which was also redesigned. Two David Austin roses were transplanted to the sunny side (not pictured) while a swath of 'Romiley Purple' veronica * and a large patch of stokesia * were divided and added to the moist tip of the partly shaded curve. Variegated 'Ascot Rainbow' euphorbia and no name hostas were added for foliage interest.





Kalimeris is sold as a sun loving perennial but it grows well in bright, dry shade, too. Solomon's Seal purchased on clearance and already dormant has been planted in front of the crape myrtle. The northern  sea oats grass (chasmanthium) has already been cut back.

Because this area is so dry, a soaker will be added to keep the soil moister. The new drainage basin created by the deep curve will also help trap water, although it will quickly be devoured by the ever thirsty river birch. This bed is also full of anemone canadensis. Sedum 'Autumn Joy'* and 'Autumn Charm'* are also sun lovers that thrive in dry partial shade. I forgot to add the sea oats to the collage.


These won't all bloom at the same time. This bed features plants that bloom from late winter (hellebore) to fall (sedum). If you follow each collage from the upper left hand corner (hellebore) to the pink fluffy sedum in the middle, you can trace the bloom schedule of the plants in each bed.


There's no significance in the colored letters. The black letters were hard to see. 


The first plant to bloom in this area will be the Solomon's Seal (far left), followed by the red columbine and Bowman's Root. By mid summer the 'Goldsturm' rudbeckia (middle left) will be lush and colorful. This bed is an odd spot for a baptisia, but it's happy so I'm leaving it alone.


In the moistest part of the shade garden, broad leafed mountain mint * and 'Goldsturm' rudbeckia * - which thrives in moist, bright partial shade - were planted with a cluster of native Bowman's Root, Japanese anemone 'Max Vogel' and 'Honorine Jobert', 'Laura' geraniums pratense *, spigelia marylandica *, and native red columbine*. Pulmonaria 'Dark Vader' and 'Moonshine' were added to brighten the shady beds. I removed the plant that was growing between the mountain mint and the baptisia and will let the mountain mint fill the area.

This area is moist enough to keep the Japanese anemones happy but too dry to allow them to become aggressive. Short pink 'Serenade' hybrid anemones (non-aggressive) and 'Pink Octopus' campanula were added to the front border. It's possible the red and yellow columbine might clash with the pink and blue flowers of the pulmonaria. But it's also possible that I might not mind.




The first to bloom in this bed are the epimediums (upper left), followed by the columbine and Bowman's Root. The last to bloom are the pink 'Max Vogel' and white 'Honorine Jobert' Japanese anemones. 

This bed is at the bottom of a hill and is the moistest spot in my shade garden. However, because of the two crape myrtles, the soil is well drained. Epimediums can take very dry soil but after years of fighting for moisture with the river birch, I thought I'd give them a break by planting them in moister soil. There was much cheering and applause.





This collage also shows the bloom time of the plants, starting with the yellow epimediums in the upper left hand corner. These are followed by Golden Alexanders*, 'Chester Thornless' blackberries*, pulmonaria 'Moonshine', salvia koyamae, and spigelia marylandica*. The 'Chocolate' eupatorium* and Big No Name hosta aren't pictured.




The almost finished redesigned shade garden
I just need to add soaker hoses and mulch and I'll be completely done.


Shivering in my thin garden pants, I finally stand, my knee pads thick with compost, and begin to pace. I follow the new curve but don't analyze or fret. I just smile.



Most of the native and hard-to-find plants were purchased at Lazy S's Farm Nursery. The 'Max Vogel' anemones came from Bluestone Perennials. Everything else came from my local nurseries.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Everything That's Right


'Rozanne' geraniums that have bloomed since spring



'Sheffield Pink' mums that I look forward to all year



Well behaved 'Honorine Jobert' Japanese anemones


Golden Alexander (Zizia aptera) seedlings for a friend


Almost being done with my shade garden redesign


Favorite music and a bright blue sky