The weather conditions this year have been extremely beneficial to my tall plants. Perhaps too beneficial The rudbeckia was sooooo tall, that it far outstripped the meager supports I had in place. When the heavy rains came in the beginning of August, many of those plants bent and snapped – there was simply too much plant, too much wind, too much rain, and supports that were much too low. The supports did more damage during those rains than if there had been no supports at all. Some of the rudbeckia survived but many were destroyed. Note for next spring: put in tall stakes in the corners of the garden to string supporting twine higher.
The Bolton’s Aster is taller than than the previous 2 years. Side note: I was out gardening one day and was chatting with a passer-by. She actually asked me if the Bolton’s Aster was a weed. Really????? We’re discussing my flowers and garden and you really think I’d be growing a huge weed in the front garden? Anyway, the aster is huge. It was staying upright, with a little help from some supports, until the last week or so. Then the winds and rains from Henri & Ida proved to be a bit much.
Unlike the rudbeckia, the aster had room and flexibility to bend all the way to the ground. Unfortunately, both the aster and I have great difficulty springing back gracefully to upright positions. 🙂 While the aster looked okay as a bush, I really prefer it tall, swaying in the breeze (like Mary’s dress). As a bush it was also killing everything under it – grass, flowers, peony. I bought three 6′ stakes. Yesterday I got my husband to pound the stakes into the ground for me. There was a time when I’d have struggled valiantly to do the stake-pounding myself. My husband is 6′ tall and I’m only 5’1″, he’s strong, and I’m not as strong as he is, so despite the fact that I do NOT let him help me up from the floor when I’m weak as a kitten (this part is for YOU, Honour), I did ask him to help me with the stakes. I held, he pounded. I also had him do the twine tying. After all, he IS the structural engineer. 🙂 I think the asters look much better this way. And NO, they are NOT weeds.
This weekend was my weekend to try once more with the path between our deck and our neighbors’ fence. On Friday I had what has now become my yearly biopsy on my tongue (major ugh and unhappiness). That means that until I can no longer feel the stitches and any and all side effects have vanished, I can’t really talk or eat or do much of anything. It’s Labor Day weekend so 3 days off from work and then Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one expecting much of anything from me. No family holiday dinner as there is no family in town at the moment and, as noted, I couldn’t be sure I could talk or eat in time for holiday dinner. The good news is that (1) I can actually chew some food today and (2) the weather cooperated wonderfully for garden work and (3) my husband was kind enough to go lift, buy, and lift the lumber I wanted.
We already know the burlap failed to slow rapid growth of the weeds. It did function beautifully for my other 2 criteria: water permeable and bio-degradable. I don’t think I realized how much water collects in that area. You can see from the photos that there is one section there where it is WET. I don’t think you can tell from the pictures but under 3 of the stones the burlap actually tore, it was that wet and frayed. The new plan was again something that sounded as if it should be easy but ended up having nuances I’d not anticipated. This is why you should really hire professionals, or do a LOT of research beforehand (not my forte) or figure it’s going to take much longer than you expected or have a very low threshold for satisfaction with work done. I chose the last option. The plan was to pick up the stepping stones, line the path with nylon screening, then secure that screening with the bricks lining the mulch, with the stepping stones themselves, and with 4×4 poles along the fence. I’d used the metal U-staples on the burlap. I needed a zillion of them and I wasn’t sure how well they’d work on the nylon.
My first surprise came when I picked up the stones and saw how quickly the burlap was deteriorating. I begin to understand the popularity of that revolting black weed block. My next surprise came with the screening. I’d ordered a roll of 100′ x 60″, enough for 2 layers of screen mesh. I hadn’t realized how SLIPPERY screen mesh can be. This is where the “easily satisfied” aspect of the job manifested. Besides the screen slithering around and bunching up, it’s late summer. Leaves were falling the whole time I was working. Despite using a leaf blower to clear the burlap before beginning work, and after putting down the first layer of screening, leaves were falling faster than I worked. There are leaves between the screen and the burlap, and leaves between the 2 screen layers. Oh well – they are biodegradable. 🙂
My other miscalculation was my lack of energy. My last solid food was dinner Thursday night. Biopsy on Friday, only water and tylenol with codeine. Water on Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon I was able to – oh, what’s a polite word for what I did? – ingest some pretzels. Little pieces of pretzel. That I could hold in the non-cut side of my mouth until I could swallow. If you don’t eat protein, and have experienced trauma to your body, you aren’t in very good shape to do physical labor. I’ve never let that stop me before and didn’t take it into consideration on Saturday afternoon either.
I got most of the walk done – I gave up about 2/3 of the way replacing the bricks – the last step. My husband found me on the kitchen floor, conscious, but not very functional. I’d finally given up when the only thing I was aware of was a nearly overwhelming sense of nausea. I was close enough to the bathroom when I lay down that I figured I could get there in time. Other than that, I had no energy. I was drained. You know I must have seemed out of it when he asked me if he should call the ambulance. That’s the point when I figured maybe I should let him help me up so I could get to a chair. Of course being me, I refused to let him help me (he was moving too fast and strong) and I needed to take off my dirty gardening clothes (something he thought was unnecessary). I fell asleep in the chair wrapped in a sheet. Definitely a case of over-doing. I got up early Sunday morning, put on my dirty gardening clothes and went out to finish putting the bricks back into place. 🙂 I’m not loving the look – the burlap looked so much nicer – but I’m hoping this will keep the weeds growing at a slower pace. If not, I’ll think about it over the winter, and call in the professionals in the spring. 🙂
Angelica Gigas – I went to elementary school with her, right? No that’s not it. Hmm – camp maybe? No, no, still not right. Ah!!!! A surprise gift from my friend Betty at Heritage Flower Farm!!!!
Last year I’d ordered several perennials. I ordered my plants in March as I usually do. In 2020 I placed my order at the start of the first ‘lock down’ for Covid19. I don’t think that impacted what I ordered. I’ve been planting native perennials that attract pollinators and butterflies, with a few other fun items tossed in. The plants ship as bare-root plants. That means Betty doesn’t send them until the end of April at the earliest and I need to get them in the ground as soon as I can. I use May 15 as my “frost” date. I only need to keep those plants going for a few days.
I’d ordered a few new things – a bleeding heart vine and swamp milkweed. Imagine my delight to find tucked in with my order a gift from Betty – 2 Angelica Gigas plants! Her note said that the plants were looking so spectacular that she just had to share. 🙂 I’d never heard of these plants so began my research on the HFF site and then to Wikipedia and other garden sites. I confess that I still don’t quite understand “biennials”, but AG is a biennial. I planted them in the front, in a very sunny spot, at the end of my row of Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia. 🙂 They didn’t do much to impress me other than stay green and survive.
This year, however, was obviously their biennial year and their year to shine. I say “their” but I believe only one of the 2 survived. It’s a bit crowded in that corner so I’m not quite sure if there is another AG in there. First there was a whole crop of big green leaves. I had to keep tying them back to let sun shine on the other plants and seeds I had going there.
Then the buds started. The flower buds are so different than any other buds that I’ve seen. I’d look at them trying to figure out where/how there was going to be a flower. It looked like a leaf was sprouting from the bud and I was extremely confused (not an unusual condition for me with my garden). It was fascinating to watch them open. The plant is still going strong. It started putting out buds in July, and is still blooming here in late August. I’m not sure if it will flower again next year, or if I have to wait 2 years, but I know I’m going to be happy to see it when it blooms again!
I was wrong. Okay everyone? Happy now?? 🙂 I admitted it. You were all right and I was wrong. But my idea wasn’t wrong – it was my implementation. 🙂
I HATE that black weed block. In my initial days of homeownership, before I spent hours and hours planting flowers and herbs, I hired landscapers. We’d built a deck, and I wanted to safety-proof it for our new-born son. The service put down weed block and then a very thick layer of mulch all around the deck. For years we would add a fresh layer if the mulch bed was wearing down. That probably helped to kill our cherry tree – suffocating the root system.
Time goes by, children grow up, hobbies change, views from the house change, and ultimately, as I’ve recorded here, the time came to “do something” with the back yard. With the kitchen renovation I saw the backyard every day. The window had always been there, but I used to sit with my back to it, not sideways to the view. Now I see the back yard all the time. I began working my way from my viewpoint around the back to the compost bins and then this year to the side strip between the deck and my neighbors’ fence.
That strip gets very little sun, but all the rain that everyone else gets. We don’t usually walk there except to get to prune the ivy growing up the deck privacy screens or to get to the water spigot on that side of the house. All of this means that that side of the house tends to be nothing but weeds. I wouldn’t mind too much if the weeds were mowed, but that wasn’t getting done either. I decided to make a path. I wanted it to be ‘green’ – it should be permeable and it should NOT have that hated black weed blocker that lasts for generation after generation, and should you decide you WANT to plant, you need a machete to cut the weed blocker to get to soil. I wanted a semi-temporary solution until I figured out what should be done as a permanent solution.
First I weed-whacked all the weeds as low as I could get them. I pruned the weeds and the garbage out from the base of the ivy. Next I covered that area with fine burlap. I know that weeds CAN grow through burlap, but I’d picked a very fine mesh and I was hoping for slowing the growth, not obliterating the growth. I put down stepping stones so that we could use that path even after rain when the ground would be muddy. I put down mulch at the base of the plants to help slow weed growth and make it more attractive. I noticed that the mulch was higher than the other side of the path, which meant a heavy rain could wash the mulch right across the path into the fence. I put down bricks on the burlap to line the mulch and hold it back. It looked VERY nice, in my opinion.
My family complained that the stones were too far apart for a comfortable walk. I’d been thinking of a ‘working stride’ not a “stroll” so my initial spacing worked for that. They also pointed out that weeds could/would grow throw the burlap but I demonstrated how easy it now was for me to pluck the few daring plants. They were unimpressed. I went and bought more stones and made a comfortable path. The the rains came. With the rains came faster more abundant growth, and much more humidity. Perhaps I’d have weeded better without the humidity, maybe it would have always been too much, too fast.
I’m going to try one more “patch” this year and then let it go. The path is 54″ wide. I ordered a roll of fine mesh window screen material – 100′ x 60″. I’m going to pick up the stones, roll out the screen, put back the stones. If this does not sufficiently slow the weeds to a point where I can battle them successfully, I’ll admit complete defeat. Next year I’ll call in a landscape service. 🙂
First it was chair that was too small. Now it’s the entire house. I do love my rhododendron. But even I concede that perhaps the time has come to have someone professional come in and do a little pruning. 🙂 These photos are from May 2021. I’ve been a bit behind in my posting although I have been zealous about taking photos. I have a Skylight in my living room and just last night a photo came up that showed the rhododendron in full-bloom – mid-windows on the FIRST floor. 🙂 I’ve been so fortunate with that bush. 🙂
This is one of those “because it was simply so beautiful” photos. It was a perfect spring day. Early in May. Warm but not hot. The sky was a perfect blue. The dappled willow had all its colors on display. And I thought my neighbors’ white chimney was a nice counterpoint. 🙂 I hope you enjoy this as well.
I’m very proud of myself. I finally tamed (mostly) the side garden. I had to hunt for a photo to show how bad it was because I have very carefully NOT been taking pictures of that disaster. 🙂 All I have is a cropped piece of a photo from April. Trust me – it was a lot worse by the time June came around. About a week ago I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore and began tying back the forsythia and yanking weeds. There were flowers in there once, I know. The problem is that the weeds look exactly like the flowers I plant. I never know if what I’m looking at is weed or flower. And of course there was the incident of the weed that was pretending to be rhubarb.
I took a few hours one morning and began the cleanup, so I could transfer some flowers to the side (mostly peppermint and my borage). That involved cutting back a good part of the rhododendron, and hacking out some very deep-seated weeds. The white azaleas need to be hacked back as well, but I couldn’t do it all in one day. Once the azaleas are cut back we might be able to see the hydrangea that is there. I need to find either a good ladder or a brave soul so the top of the rhododendron can be cut back. I don’t really need it reaching the roof, and that’s where it seems to be heading.
There are some plants that are well behaved and still contained, playing nicely with each other. The lilies look great next to the gaillardia. I’m hoping the mandevilla that is just sneaking in at the side of the gaillardia (you can see 2 partial leaves) will make it this year. Either I bought an unhealthy plant or I’ve been over-watering it (my guess) or it got sick, but its leaves keep turning yellow. 😦 There are flowers and new shoots on it, so I’ve decided to leave it alone for a bit and see how it does. Benign negligence. Those 2 are in the front garden. The shot below is part of the bed between the street and the sidewalk. It’s almost rudbeckia time!! I finally looked up the yellow flowered brown leaved perennial: lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’. What the description doesn’t say is that it is nearly indestructible!
The best part of the side garden is that one of my canna lilies from last summer wintered over, and is coming up! This is incredibly exciting for 2 reasons. First, just the fact that something that wonderful wintered over thrills me. 🙂 Second, they cost SO MUCH per plant. This one is saving me at least $25. 🙂 That is ALWAYS appreciated.
My romaine lettuce did GREAT!!!! It was large enough and healthy enough that I could make a salad without having to add lettuce from the store. 🙂 I had 3 radishes that COULD have gone into the salad but we ate them. 🙂 I have a lot to learn still about growing vegetables. I crowd them, and mix mismatched sun-types in the same pot. It’s very encouraging, however, when I actually get it right and end up with viable produce! The lettuce appeared to be very happy in a pot of its own, hanging off the porch railing. I’ll plant another!
The celery isn’t quite ready but you can see that it IS looking very celery. The fun thing about celery is that it grows above ground so I can track the progress. With my radishes I sort of poke around in the dirt if they are not showing through. And yes – I do see that little weed in there that needs to be pulled
I’ll need to grow more lettuce so that I can make another salad, this time with the grape tomatoes!
I spend a lot of time in my breakfast room at my table. As I’ve mentioned before, that has spurred me to start shedding some love on the back yard. I shared pictures of what I’ve done, but those pictures showed all the weeds and mess. Check out how great it looks now that I went out there and weeded and cleaned!!! I still have more work to do in the part behind the deck, and out of sight of this photo. There is still so much weeding to be done in the driveway as well. But for the moment I’m resting on my laurels and enjoying the view!
As you can tell by my photos, I spend A LOT of time on the front and side of the house. There never used to be much reason to spend a lot of effort in the back as I never really saw it. We have a huge deck (I think it’s 14′ x 20′) attached to the house and we entertain there. You’ve seen the photos of the trellis all around it with the ivy thick on the trellis. The only view of the back yard is from my breakfast room window or when you are walking from the driveway up to the deck. Since I never sat in my breakfast room facing the windows, I didn’t really care about that yard. I’d tried various methods to tame the weeds. I tried putting down burlap covering the dirt so we could get to the composter. I tried using bamboo fencing as a pathway. My goal was about walking to the composter, not about having a nice view.
Once we redid the kitchen 2 years ago, I ended up with my wonderful round counter-height table. I sit there all the time. In front of me is the glass wall and door to the deck. To my left is the back yard. Which looked terrible. I began working on it last summer. There are a few problems with the area. The first is the lack of sun. Because of the trees, house, garage and deck that area gets almost no sun on the back property line and very little between the deck and the garage. The soil is poor and complicated by the fact that over 25 years ago I had landscaping done. Why is landscaping a problem? Because landscapers put down that horrible black weed-barrier material, which is nearly impossible to cut. It doesn’t prevent weeds, either. I had the area around the deck completely mulched. I had visions of my son and his friends climbing on the deck rail and falling off. The mulch deteriorated, we replaced it many times, and it became and accumulated dirt. The weeds grew in the dirt. There was easily a minimum of 2 inches of dirt above the weed barrier. I began trying to grow plants back there. They’d die because they couldn’t get roots down far enough. That’s what led to the burlap and bamboo paths.
I finally realized last year that if I wanted plants I was going to have to do battle with the weed block. First I need to determine the battle site, excuse me, site for the plant. Then I need to push all the dirt to the side to uncover the weed barrier. It is now over 25 years old, so sometimes it yields fairly easily to the box cutter knife. Other times I could swear the barrier was made of steel. Not only do I need to clear the barrier from an area sufficiently wide to dig a hole, I have to slice it for a distance from the hole so the plant can spread. I’m not sure that I always do a sufficient job of slicing to enable spreading. It takes a lot of strength and energy to cut that material, even as aged as it is. I’ve started looking for shade-loving plants (I should move the cilantro back here) and ground covers that will spread. I really don’t want to have to deal with this yard with the effort that the front requires. I’m very pleased with how it’s looking these days, although you can tell from the photos that it is due for a massive weeding. I was planning to do that this weekend but I ended up tackling the rhododendron and the weeds on the side of the house, and then weeding the driveway. Oy. Exhausting.
I’ve ordered another 5 stepping stones for the walkway. The bugleweed is doing GREAT. It looks beautifully healthy and has already begun to spread. My only reluctance about it is that it is not native to this area. Besides supporting pollinators, I’ve tried to grow native plants. The lamium (dead-nettles) is doing well also. The 3 smaller plants closer to the house are all from last year. The larger one I bought this year (and did indeed buy a larger plant than I bought last year). There is a small coral bells near the entrance to the garage that is still struggling – I planted it last year. There are 2 larger ones back by the ivy. The curly grass was a transplant from my sister’s yard this year. The tag on it claims it likes shade whereas the site I linked says sun, so we’ll see how it makes out. I need to prune the dead curls and figure out if it’s struggling or doing alright. I added a fern this year that is thriving (it was fairly large to begin with). That was the site of a major skirmish with the weed barrier, complicated by 2 huge tree roots. I forgot to mention that the tree roots are yet another complication in the back yard. I’d planted ivy last year (the solid bright green) and then added more, smaller plants this year. Considering how well ivy does coming up on the deck trellises, I’m hoping they will cover the barrier hiding my neighbor’s garage. 🙂 I moved some spiderwort 3 years ago, as well as some goldenrod. The spiderwort is holding firm but the goldenrod gave up the struggle.
The fuchsia are hanging from a pole that I used to put in the front, in the middle of my rudbeckia. I decided it worked much better in the back. When we first moved into the house, the front of the house was shaded by 3 large trees that are no longer with us. For years I’d hang huge baskets of fuchsia on the front porch. Once the trees were gone, so went the fuchsia. I’m very happy to have them back where I can enjoy them. The vine along the deck trellis is a new experiment. It’s adlumia fungosa, also known as Allegheny Vine or Bleeding Heart Vine. I got this (along with my usual butterfly-attracting plants) from Heritage Flower Farm this year. I didn’t really understand what it means to be a biennial plant. I gather I’m not going to get any flowers this year but next year the flowers will come. I thought it also meant that it flowers every other year Apparently it will die at the end of the 2nd year. If I’m lucky, it will seed itself and repeat the cycle. I’ve had limited success with self-seeding plants (note to self: STOP hiring the yard cleanup crew in December). In addition, what I’ve been reading seems to imply that Allegheny Vine is a bit finicky. Given the poor soil back there, I suspect that I’ll be lucky to even get flowers next year. It was worth a try, and maybe it will turn out better than expected! Sometimes plants do flourish when you least expect it. *laughing* ESPECIALLY in the cracks of my driveway!!!