Upsy-Daisy

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.

oh me, oh my, soooo tired and droopy

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.

stand up straight!!!

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.

The peony is saying “aaaahhhh! air & light!

Angelica Gigas

Angelica Gigas with Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia behind

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!!!!

The first bud – see the leaves coming out of the bud

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.

Crowded – cosmos, zinnias, & volunteer ground cherry in front, spider wort, rudbeckia, lysimachia ciliata behind

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!

We’re Going to Need a Bigger House

Full Bloom

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. 🙂

getting started

Only Needs Sun, Rain, and 36 Years

May 22

This was one of the very first plantings we did when we moved in 37 years ago. That fall my sister and I went to the nurseries (and there used to be many more than there are now) and we picked out 2 white azaleas, a rhododendron, and 2 Andromeda bushes. Only 1 of the white azaleas could hold its own against the rhododendron. There is an Andromeda bush (I think) still hanging on behind the white azalea. The other Andromeda bush thrives at the front corner, well away from the rhododendron. A friend has told me she wants a rhodo like mine. All she needs is another 36 years. 🙂

May 13
May 15
May 16
May 18

My Senses Say It’s September

For about 2 weeks now, however, my ears have been telling me it is mid- to late September. The cicadas are extremely loud and out there every evening. My nose is smelling that cooler slightly moist air that means fall. The air is heavy and still. At night the temperatures are dropping into the low 70s, and once or twice into the high 60s. That is NOT August weather. The sun feels warm on my skin, not searingly hot.

According to the calendar, it is only mid-August. That means it is summer. I’m sure mid-August used to FEEL like summer. Hazy, hot, humid. Time for our week’s vacation down the shore.  By now the water will be warm which means more likelihood of jellyfish. (Except THIS year, in keeping with everything else 2020, the water has sea lice. I would rather have jellyfish.)

The light says “autumn”

It sounds and feels like mid-September. It is only the dratted no-see-ums that remind me it is still summer.

TWO gardenias at once!!

Major Cleanup on the Side Garden

Lilies and gaillardia
Lilies and gaillardia

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.

overgrown side yard
Before (April) – Peonies just beginning, forsythia just ending, lots of dead brush

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.

pruned side garden
After (June) – Borage transplanted nicely – will have blue flowers, you can see the ferns and the variegated whatever.

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!

lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker'
Yellow flowered lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’, mandevilla’s white flowers, variegated grass, rudbeckia laciniata hortensia (not yet blooming)

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.

canna lily wintered over
Grow, canna lily, Grow!!!

I Grew A Salad

romaine lettuce before picking
Ready to harvest

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!

radishes and lettuce fresh from the garden
My harvest!

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

it's almost celery
Almost ‘real’ celery

I’ll need to grow more lettuce so that I can make another salad, this time with the grape tomatoes!

grape tomatoes on the vine
grape tomatoes on the vine

Finally Attending to the Back Yard

IMG_3547
Path at noon (standing on the rocks under the breakfast room bay window)

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.

view from my window including hanging sculpture
view from my window including part of the hanging sculpture

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.

view from the composters
view from the composter (spiderwort, behind the deck)

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.

Early morning sun (8:30)
Path early morning (8:45 or so)

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.

path in the afternoon
Path in the afternoon – after 3pm

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!!!

bleeding heart vine
Allegheny Vine (bleeding heart vine)

RADISHES!!!!!

2 radishes
Radishes!

I have radishes!!!!! I grew them from seed!!!! REAL RADISHES!!!! 🙂 They even tasted good. I am soooooo impatient and that made me do a very dumb thing. The first radishes I tried to grow I had in the same container as the cilantro. I knew the minute I finished seeding that it had been a mistake. Radishes need sun and my experience with cilantro is that it wants very little sun. My radishes had been growing for WEEKS. I figured there MUST be a radish down there somewhere. I pulled one up.

first radish
The First Radish

It was the saddest excuse for a radish you’ve ever seen. Yes, there was something radish-red at the end of the leaves, but it was as skinny as a root. It was maybe a half an inch long and probably not even 1/4 of an inch in diameter. In disappointment and despair I pulled the 5 of them up and tossed them. I could see that the ones growing out there in the sun were doing much better. I think that had I just left those 5 little ones alone for awhile (or killed the cilantro and not the radishes), they’d have grown up. I got another empty container, filled it with soil and seed starter, and planted MORE RADISHES!!
Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt, That’s why I love vegetables, you know what you’re about!

Radish leaves and onions
Look at those radish leaves!!! (the other cups have onions – i know – a mistake to have them there)