Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rain dancing

Sunday it hit 90 and I think the humidity was right along with it. It was soooo bad that yours truly spent the day inside cleaning house, catching up on laundry and allowing the A/C to wring out some of the moisture. I was beginning to mildew.

I awoke Monday to the patter of rain on the rhody leaves outside my bedroom window. What a lovely sound. It pattered off and on all day - spits here and there. The occasional real shower. The temps were lower too. Couldn't do much outside because it spit, sputtered and sprayed all day. I knew we weren't supposed to get any more rain in the foreseeable future (out at least 8-9 days) so every drop on Monday would really count.

But the rains were light and intermittent and after 10 hours of angsting over the gauge, by 4:00 pm we'd only received .5". I was pooped, feeling I'd practically danced for 10 hours to get it. C'mon, you can do it! Just another 5 minutes. Think big. Think wet! Don't go! *whew*

The skies pretty much turned blue and the sun came out so I went inside for an early light supper. Involved with my sandwich it didn't really dawn on me that it was getting dark again. Suddenly zzzzzzap! BOOM! Then --- downpour!

It only lasted 10 minutes, but it added another .5" to the gauge. YAY!

All that angst-dancing had paid off. And right at the end, while it was still raining, the sun came out and - tada - a backyard rainbow.

For now the heat wave is broken. Today it is well overcast and only 62 right now giving the plants an opportunity to soak up yesterday's rain instead of it evaporating away. We're supposed to only get in the 70s until Friday with nighttime temps in the 50s. Again, YAY.

The weekend will return to the high 80s and steamy, but before then I'll be able to get a few things done over the next few days now that I (and the plants) won't be as limp as dishrags by noon.

Now if the mosquitoes *wave* would just *slap* let up for *ow!* for a while....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly

The good:

I found the deck!

(click to embiggen & focus)
Hitherto (don't you just love using cool words like that?) the deck was crowded with plant-filled tables. Most of those seedlings are now out in beds where they belong. I deconstructed the tables, the hoopsters, and other cobbled together plant holders, and finally imposed a some order to all that chaos.

Enough seedling pots remained that I left a bench along the railing for them (rooted cutting from geraniums, some WS plants being held for Mom, another attempt at foxgloves from seeds, etc.)

But by and large comfortable seating can now be had with enough room to stretch out. Ah.

The bad:

While sitting (and occasionally stretching) and sipping morning coffee, these bad boys come down and gobble up all the bread I toss out for the birds every morning.

(click to embiggen to count squirrels)
It's a mixed tribe (herd?) of fox, grey and black squirrels. They chase each other around all day but in the mornings this truce is declared while they chow down. Can you find all 9?

Meanwhile, as I enjoy my coffee this morning, I pointedly avoid giving thoughts to...

The ugly:

(click to embiggen - but at your own risk!)
Three months of rabid gardening debris tossed willy-nilly into the garage. Taking down the deck tables, etc. finally overloaded the space such that the car is living outside right now.

I think I'm going to need a lot more coffee. *woof*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer solstice - 2 days late

Yesterday I posted about my 10 backyard beds, but the 'big picture' only showed 7 of them. Here are the 'missing' beds.

Below is the wall bed where I plant my tomatoes. I usually photograph it from the other end to highlight the tomatoes. But here you can see that there are other plants too.

Below is the fence bed. Again from the other end. It shows shade plants clustered under the crabapple tree.

The veg bed that used to be a firepit/burn area. Years of tilling in compost and leaves have made it nice and loamy. Everything is growing well, but could use some rain.

And look. I found an 11th bed I didn't include in my total. LOL (Good lord, maybe I DO have too many beds if I can't keep track of them!) When I bought the house this area was buried in overgrown yews. Pulling them out and trimming back the rhody and the pieris allowed me to transform the space into the nice sweep of plants you see here.

These pics are a good benchmark for how the beds look now. The 7 pictured in the previous post (as well as the fence bed above) will start showing lots more color when the annuals and new (WS'd this spring) perennials start to fill in.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer solstice - a day late

(click on pic then magnify for better detail)

I spent the solstice mowing all the lawns. Then, this morning after a brief shower (only .3"), I snapped a pic of the back since it was looking nice and tidy.

It's a good shot showing (from front to back) 7 of my 10 backyard beds:

A corner of the revamped birdbath bed (lower right), the brick bed (zins too short to show in this pic), the new crab bed, the arbor bed, the stump bed, the bee-forage ring bed and, barely visible unless you click on the pic and magnify, the 'wild' bed under the split-trunk maple back along the golf course.

The 3 beds not pictured are the veg bed, the fence bed and the wall bed (filled with tomatoes).

To put things into perspective, when I moved here there were only 2 features in the backyard: an area that they used for a firepit/burn area and a rectangular flower bed that was about 8 feet to the right of the current oval arbor bed. I turned the burn area into the veg bed, reshaped and moved that rectangular flower bed.

I've created all the rest. My garden equipment is getting a little shabby. Heck, I'm getting a little shabby! ;-D

Anyway, this morning's bit of rain settled the dust, but that was about all. Keep your fingers crossed we'll get some more. We need a good soaker. Gonna hit high 80s today and maybe 90 tomorrow. *pant*

Sunday, June 20, 2010


During my 3-month gardening-mania marathon, I've been keeping a close eye on the bee population.

At the beginning of May, there were quite a few carpenter bees around, making little condos in the shed. The weeks went by. Once I saw a real bumblebee, but only that one sighting and never again. The heat and rains came.

For weeks I waited for the 'real' bees. Finally, in the past 3 weeks, I've seen 2 solitary bees. And only those 2. The carpenter bees are all gone. The shed is full of empty holes. I've never seen this happen before. Carpenter bees are a nuisance, but they are usually everywhere!

The plants that last year at this time were buzzing with bees are silent. What little white clover bloomed this year did not attract any honeybees.

And it's not like there isn't lots in flower for all kinds of pollinators right now. This year there are 2ce as many Johnson blue geraniums in bloom,

2ce as many Walker's Low cat mint in bloom, and a 3-foot patch of creeping sedum just ablaze with yellow flowers.

And, lest we forget, all of last year's wintersown lavender plants are in full swing

as are 5, count 'em, FIVE large stands of 3 varieties of milkweed scenting the breeze with their lovely honey-scented fragrance.

What else is blooming? Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee coneflower).

At least half-a-dozen hostas, 3 large spirea shrubs, garden phlox (talk about early!) and verbascum, to name a few.

Not only is the bee population nearly nothing, but I've only seen 2 wasps so far this year.

And after that early flush of red admiral butterflies, all I've got to watch are a couple of white cabbage butterflies. (They do look lovely on the lavenders.)

But really. What's happened this year? Is this local? Are any of you experiencing this same lack? How are YOUR bee/pollinator populations doing this year?

Where are they? What's happened this year?

Where are all the bees?

Friday, June 18, 2010

She crosses the finish line!

Just over 3 months ago I picked up my first envelope of seeds in the basement. That was the middle of March and I never looked back.

In March I wintersowed my perennials while tender annuals and vegetables got tee'd up in the basement. I also potted up 21 purple canna lilies, 2 pots of dahlias and 5 pots of elephants ears, all cuddled up near the furnace for comfort. And, during an especially nice week I even got the vegetable beds all tilled and composted so they could bask in the sun and warm up.

In April I started the tomatoes in the basement and started planting out leeks and garlic in the veg bed and filled the deck bins with lettuces and pea greens. I also started a blitz of heavy planting in the yard. By the end of the month I'd installed 10 white pines, 5 crabapples, 20 yews and 2 rhodys. In my spare time I would collect grass clippings and mulch the ring bed. On those nice days I also did some dividing and transplanting of larger perennials such as the Johnson blue geranium and the Walker's Low catmint. I also dug up 9 English lavenders and put them in the crab bed. They never even noticed they had been moved.

May is some kind of blur. The early warm weather allowed me to fill the deck with basement seedlings and WS plants I potted up to encourage good root development. The cannas and dahlias had all sprouted and were brought outside. They needed only the occasional floating row cover to protect them from sharp nights. Grass clipping collection became a way of life this year. The warm wet weather stimulated the lawn to the point I had to mow just about every 4-5 days! *pant*

The last frost/freeze was on May 10. The norm is May 18. By the 13th the nights never went below 50 again, so planting began. The cannas were sunk into the fence bed. Purple basil and Golden Jubilee hyssops went into the crab bed. On the 20th I actually planted out 12 tomatoes. Within a couple of days the veg bed was filled with onions, peppers, parsley, Brussels sprouts and a segment of the ring bed sported an additional 10 tomatoes. And before the end of the month there were even cukes and bush beans and carrots sprouting.

And now June. I thought May was a blur? Wow. More mowing. Tree trimming. Planting began in earnest - the annuals were large enough to endure the winds, the rains (lots of rains *glub*), and the herd of squirrels that thunder through the yard at all hours. When they get on the roof it sounds like reindeer doing a stomp dance! *thud* *thud* More transplanting. I installed another 6 yews and a 2nd doublefile viburnum that had gotten too big for my Mom's garden. (It's like 'rescue ranch' here. I'm getting a nice collection of castoffs. LOL) I won't even mention all that I've done over at Mom's this spring.

Two days ago I finished filling the final bed. The big one. The ring bed. This morning I headed out at 6:15 a.m. (we're going to hit 90 today with extra juicy high humidity) to finish up while it was relatively cool. I got the last piles of clippings on the beds, gave the transplants a last drink from the hose, tossed all the equipment into the garage (a bad habit since March) and came inside by 10:30.

But now, in out of the heat and humidity, I am letting the world of Internetland know that I'm DONE DONE DONE.

Well, yeah. Done. Mostly. There are my geranium tips that I'm rooting will need planted. And the cups of herbs that still need a home. But really. Done. I'm pretty sure... At least for now. :-D

I wanted to post a pic of a bed, any bed...but I have none at their current state of finishness. Besides, I really really need to just sit and stare - blankly - for a while. For a looong while. 8-/

Then, eventually, I'll have to clean out the garage....*woof*

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My muse is crazy!

The best part of being retired (voluntary or otherwise) is getting up early and enjoying coffee either on the deck or in the sunroom. It's a great time to check out garden progress and do some blue-sky thinking on future projects.

This morning I was gazing toward the veg bed and was miffed that some of the branches on the 2 sweet gum trees were interfering with my view. Hmmm. It was early (not yet 7 o'clock). No golfers out yet. I thought, why not dash out and clip off those couple of branches. No big deal and would only take a moment...

I threw a shirt over my PJs, slipped on my garden boots and dashed out to trim those couple of branches.

Half-an-hour later...! I trimmed not only the 2 sweet gums, but the silver maple behind it! Oh good grief. Why do I get so many harebrained ideas while I'm in my pajamas! And why do I think that whatever it is I want to do won't wait until I get dressed?

I piled the branches under the gum trees, came back inside, shucked off the shirt and boots, refilled my coffee and headed back to the sunroom to enjoy my new and improved view.

Ah. Comfy at last. I was about to take a sip and --- freeze! WHAMMO! That muse strikes again. Oh give me a break! *sob* But I can't resist. There, right in front of me, is the answer to a design problem that has plagued me for years. Namely: how to deal with those 2 trees.

In the picture above you can see how they just stab into the an expanse of lawn. They seem naked. I envisioned all kinds of shade gardens beneath them. Joined. Separate. Straight. Round. Nothing ever clicked.

But what I saw now was that I'd always concentrated on the beds themselves, their shape. I was missing an important design element for this situation. NEGATIVE SPACE.

I was so excited I abandoned my coffee, grabbed my shirt and boots and raced back outside.

I'm sure golfers see stuff like this all the time - crazy women in PJs and boots. Right? Grabbing branches and RE-ARRANGING them. Right? Then taking PICTURES of it all. Right? *sigh*

When I was done I was happy. For what I had realized from the sunroom window was that the shape of the beds were not important. What was important, what was satisfying, was the flow of the lawn between them. Before, the trees were just sticking up in a sea of grass. Now the branch trimmings outlined a smooth sweep, a river a grass that now not only flows between the trees, but also to the right, along the ring bed.

The bed on the right will be more or less round. The bed with the bench will be more substantial and rather concave, like a crescent moon, to reinforce the curved sweep of the lawn.

I don't know when I'll get to it, but the design is done. More newspapers from the library. More grass clippings. Lasagna beds are easy to make (after all, the crab and fence beds came out nice!).

Inside, it's off with the boots and shirt again and back to the sunroom. Now I really needed a break! Coffee! Coffee! I grabbed my cup.


Yuk! Cold!

Oh well. Might as well get dressed....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deep green

With 7" of rain in the past 10 days, the back gardens and lawns are squishy, to say the least.

For the past year I've concentrated on those back/bee beds and have given the front of the house very short shrift. So it was a little surprising when I actually looked out the front door of the breezeway this morning and saw what effect all this warm wet weather has had on my hostas, astilbes, hydrangeas, sedums, ferns and heucheras. Goodness!

It's a shame that this entrance is never really used as everyone comes to the back and in through the deck.

The walkway to the front door doesn't see any traffic either.

But the little sitting area I carved out behind the rhodys does get used on those hot summer mornings when the sun is baking the back deck. Here I can enjoy the cool lush greens, listen to the fountain trickle and sip my morning coffee. Doesn't get much better than that. :-D

Saturday, June 5, 2010

*splish splash*

Another 1.6" dumped on us last night. I heard storm after storm. Since Monday we've accumulated rain 5.8" with more coming.

We are past wet, past drenched. We are now saturated. And when that happens the dip between my driveway and the neighbor's fills up.

Now a mature gal (like I'm supposed to be) might have the good sense to stay inside, wait for the next storm and get some long-overdue housecleaning done. Or laundry. And most anything else proper and productive.

Proper and productive? Moi???
Instead I headed for the woodpile, then grabbed my rain gear.

Soon the SS RAINBOW set sail.

The design had some shortcomings. Too heavy for the light winds and a coffee filter made for a lousy sail. As soon as it got wet, it sorta dissolved. :-D

SS RAINBOW II fared much better. A smaller ship with plastic sail performed well in the errant breeze. Lookit that gal go!

Across the road curtains twitched. I've gotten used to it. ;-D

I can't help getting older. But I refuse to get old....! (Avast, matey!)

Friday, June 4, 2010

*glub glub*

We were hot and dry for 10 days and the gardens really needed some rain.

Finally, on Monday (31st) we had 2 storms that gave us 1.7 inches. Yay!
But the first one had vicious winds which blew over all my foxgloves, the taller milkweeds and just about leveled my 10' viburnum. It also grabbed my shade umbrella, tore it out of it's holder and smashed it through the breezeway window. Boo!

On Wednesday we got 1.1 inches. Um, yay again?

Yesterday (Thursday) a storm came through after dark and dumped another 1.4". No yay.

Enough already, we're fine for a while. Really.
But a look at the weather channel predicts thunderstorms for the next 7 days.

At times like this I'm really really glad my house sits on top of the hill...

Meanwhile, I'll be keeping this handy for a while --

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Big blue

Once I realized that the hibiscus and hosta were duking it out, I stepped in and declared a winner. I dug out the pink hibiscus and repositioned both it and it's mate's supports more appropriately, moving the one crowding the hosta to the middle of the bed and turning both parallel to the wall. I still wanted something tall there so planted 3 cups of my WS'd hollyhocks. I figure the hollyhocks will bloom earlier and be done before the remaining hibiscus comes into its own.

Now the Bressingham blue's size can be really showcased. When I was done I enjoyed a tall glass of iced tea and admired the new look of the bed. And, apparently, so did this little girl.

Good grief, that's a big plant! What next under there? A tea party? :-D

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Size matters?

Many years ago (oh, 10 years or more when I was still at the old house) a friend and I attended a plant sale at Stan Hywett Hall in Akron. I brought home what was then touted as the largest of all hostas, a "Sum & Substance". Since then it's been the show-off plant of my back border bed with it's lush display of chartreuse leaves and lots of flower stalks.

A couple of years ago I picked up an end-of-year sale plant at Lowes. It was a Bressingham blue and I was totally unfamiliar with it. It had no pic or tag, just the name scrawled on the plastic pot. I like the blue color so brought it home. As with many impulse purchases, I had no idea where to plant it so just stuck it in a far-too-sunny spot for a hosta - right under my sunroom bay window.

It grew quietly for a couple of years, mostly neglected. But it seemed to be able to handle the sun so I put off moving it.

This year it's like something out of a SciFi movie, or like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction: "I won't be ignored!"

It is gigantic. Big and blue and pushing aside the hardy hibiscus trying to come up next to it.

Well, Glenn, I'm not ignoring you anymore. And no way am I moving you from what must obviously be the perfect place for you. So, sorry hibiscus. I'm getting a shovel. You guys are so outta there.

And, lucky me, I'd let a stalk of it go to seed last year. Now I have a WS container chock full of Bressingham blue seedlings. Hmmm. Now where the heck are those babies gonna go?

I do love my many hostas. Not only do they give a lush display, but the flowers are great bee magnets. Even the hummers come 'round now and then.

Meanwhile, nice news on the tomato front. Check out the Veg Page!