Saturday, September 12, 2020

In the Hot Bed

 

Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration. 

~Lou Erickson

There is a set of stairs at the back of the house dividing the sloped south facing yard into two terraced levels. This is how the beds on both sides of the stairs looked in April when we moved in. The post today is only about the left side, which is up against the foundation of the house and south facing, so it is hot and dry.

 

My first thoughts were that lavender and sedums would be perfect plants for this area. Once established (after next year) they wouldn’t require a lot of watering as both thrive in hot dryish areas with all day sun, and they would provide food for bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

 

The only plants in that bed, aside from weeds, was a vinca tangled up with a Euonymus. The bed is just shy of 3 feet wide and 10 feet long.

Vinca is a vining, far reaching ground cover that is very ineffective at smothering out weeds and it will have to be constantly cut back if it isn’t to interfere with the walkway. It’s out.

The Euonymus is, to my taste, an uninteresting shrub that can reach out 4-6 feet wide and even taller. In this location it too would have to be pruned annually once it reached its mature size. And it would block the view of the garden I planned to create on the other side of the walk. Out it goes too.

The bed was bordered with rocks on the stair edge, presumably to stop the dirt from spilling out onto the stairs. As you can see over time the lower rocks became buried and weren’t doing the job. Lastly, there was a makeshift retaining wall made of mis-matched blocks at the bottom of the bed which had collapsed. Sorry, I didn't get a good photo of that.

 

All cleared away, now I have a blank slate to work with. First in goes 3 lavenders. “Goodwin Creek” to be specific. I have grown this one before and it is a favorite of mine. I love the indented leaf shape and it puts up long willowy wands of blooms which create lovely movement in the breeze. It also had a longer bloom time in my previous garden than other lavenders. It is a lovely variety. 

Along with the lavender, I added a broken portion of a Mexican pottery pot. I like using broken pots as a little interest, or whole pots turned on their side and angled just so. A little eye candy if you will.

 

After the lavenders are placed as the “bones” of the space, I filled in with sedums of many varieties from trailing types to hen’s and chicks types, all of which came with me from my previous garden. Sedums are incredibly easy to propagate. They will spread and fill in quickly.

As for the lost rocks edging the lowest steps, I pulled them up and re positioned them. I don’t really like rocks used that way but for now they will stay.

 

If all that isn’t exciting enough, now the icing on the cake happens! This is where my better half comes into his own. He is so creative and talented when it comes to hardscaping our garden spaces. He set about making a beautiful retaining wall to support the end of this bed. He used concrete blocks and capped them with flat stones. The blocks and stones had been left, stashed and buried in different places in this yard, by past owners.

 

First, he carved out the shape, and poured a footing in concrete.

 

Then cemented together blocks.

 

Then he ‘faced’ the blocks with a rough smear of mortar. 

He adds color powder to the mortar to give an aged look to his stucco finish. New concrete dries bright whitish and isn’t particularly lovely. The new brightness can be distracting in the garden, I think. Concrete does darken over time but it takes years. He ‘ages’ it by darkening it with coloring agents so the new wall looks like it’s been there for a long time and it blends better in the garden. I love the rough look of a stucco finish. It transports me to Tuscany or south of the border.

 

Then he capped it all off with some slate or what ever this stone is. There were several pieces of this stone laying around, apparently left-overs from the construction of the patio some years ago. I am so glad to have them as they are just perfect to finish this wall.

 

So… what do you think? Coming along nicely, I think. In a year or two you won’t see much, if any, soil after these plants fill in. Covered soil means less weeds. Win Win.

Cheers!

In Bloom in my Garden Today: Rose, Sedum, Agastache, Geum, Fuchsia, Salvia, Verbena, Gladiolus, Mullen, Thyme, Oregano, Calendula, Yarrow, Dianthus, Germander, Cuphea,

Author’s photos

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Front Walk Bed

 

"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here
With summer's best of weather
and autumn's best of cheer."
~unknown author

When we moved in, the garden beds along the walkway leading to the front door looked like this.

 

The walkway moves you alongside a long deck. Under the deck is storage and the deck skirting is inexpensive lattice, which many folks consider something to be covered up. So naturally a previous owner planted vines to do so. There are aggressive vines and there are well behaved vines. In this case they choose 2 very aggressive hydrangea vine varieties. Fast to grow and cover no doubt they were told but when you plant under a deck, the vine will eventually get up to the height of the deck and beyond, and into everything stored under the deck, so you now have an annual pruning and untangling chore to add to your yearly list of things to do. And bear in mind if you plant vines…vine trunks grow wide too and will break your lattice as it outgrows the space it intertwines with.

 

 There was also some sword Fern. I love ferns but there are other varieties I love more than our native Sword (Polystichum munitum). There was also a thick carpet of invasive violets covering every inch of dirt, making weeding a difficult and unpleasant activity. And seeding its way into the lawn and nearby beds so - out it goes.

Deck skirting can be beautiful but this lattice is ugly and at this point brittle and broken in some places so in the future my better half will replace it with something wonderful, because that’s what he does. He builds our beautiful hardscapes.

In the meantime, my job is to get rid of all the wrong plants and put in some better choices.

 

Months ago, I cut all the vines close to the soil to stop their progression and kill them. A couple months later I dig out the sword ferns and violas and clean up the whole area. Much to my dismay I also encountered yards of weed barrier cloth, 4-6 inches under the whole mess, so I had to get it out too. I hate the stuff but that’s another post coming. Needless to say, if I wanted my new plantings to grow into a healthy garden, I needed to get the weed barrier cloth out.

 

 Then I planted. Yay! The fun part. I chose Sarcoccoa ruscifolia for its eventual size and late winter fragrance to go by the front door and I underplanted it with Pachysandra.

  

For the narrow bed under the deck, I chose Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ which should stay well within the height of under the deck (a tad over 5 feet) and if it should reach the top, it is much easier to control than a vine. Then I underplanted it with black Mondo grass and a lovely variety of heuchera for shade named Dolce Silver Gumdrop. I thought the silvery plum leaves with black veining would brighten the shady bed and look stunning intermingling with the black mondo grass.

 

 I am glad I spent time at my former garden taking cuttings and divisions. It has saved me a lot of money in new plants. Black Mondo grass is very costly, and all I have here, I have brought with me. And it will spread. Same with the pachysandra. Cuttings are easy to root in place if you keep it moist as it forms new roots. And the heuchera I bought on sale and in a few years’ time, I will be able to propagate more from these 3 and fill in this space.

Now all I have to do is keep it watered and wait till it all fills in. No worries…I have plenty of other areas needing work in this yard. Stay tuned!

In bloom in my garden today: fuschia, heuchera, sedum, germander, Agastache, calendula, dianthus, salvia, coryopsis, geum, rose, nepeta, cuphea, verbascum, asclepias, thyme 

Authors photos

 

 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Work with What You've Got

Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me. Who could ask for more?

~Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening

 

When editing a new-to-you garden, it’s good to take a step back and see what is there that you can use and what you absolutely don’t want.  In my case, a wisteria and a laurel had to go. Both didn’t have the room to grow to their mature size where they were planted and both would require a lot of pruning.

I have grown wisteria before. It is lovely. It requires a hard prune back to its main branching each year in late winter to keep it in check. Also, Wisterias often won’t bloom unless the new growth curling tendrils are cut off. Every 2 weeks. All summer long. The plant puts its energy into the new growing of leaf and vine. But you want flowers so you need to redirect that growth back into the older wood to produce blooming cells that will lie deep in the older woody stems until the following spring. The wisteria here was on an arbor, 8 feet high over a gate. The house was on one side and a neighbor’s fence on the other. It only had about 10 feet width of freedom to climb and reach. Not nearly enough for a wisteria. And I was not about to get out my ladder every two weeks to climb up to keep the tendrils cut off.

Then there is the Laurel. Laurels grow fast, flowers for a short period of time and sets seed with abandon. It was clear to me by its location that it was planted to provide a quick privacy screen. Laurel can quickly grow to heights over a 2 story house and easily as wide. The previous owners had kept cutting it down to a height of 6 feet in a weird flat shape about 8-10 feet wide. It also had old damage which could eventually allow in insect damage and rot.

 

 Its seed drop was in a radius of 10 feet so was sprouting seedlings far and wide, and clearly would do so every year. It created plants that were already 2-3 feet in diameter, growing under the nearby wood deck. Selecting a laurel for this application in this location meant sweeping seeds off the deck every spring and early summer as they drop, constant weeding of its seedlings, and removal of deck floor boards to get to the plants that will sprout and grow underneath.

 

 As one that has worked in the plant nursery industry, I can guarantee there are thousands of plants from which to choose. There are right plants and very definitely wrong plants for you. The phrase, “right plant, right place” means just that. An experienced nursery professional can steer you to the right plant for your location, skill in maintenance and time you want to dedicate to its care. The perfect choice is one that will not create a lot of work for you and eventually become such a monster that it overwhelms you and the spot it is planted in.

The title of this post could have been ‘right plant, right place” but, “Work with What You’ve Got” is the rest of the story about the Wisteria and the Laurel.

As for the wisteria, since its branching structure was entangled in and held up by the arbor above the gate, I cut it off at the base of the trunk to kill the branches. I did use a non-selective chemical herbicide to spray on the base of the trunk to kill the root. I don’t want it coming back and without spray it will sprout again. You can also kill a wisteria root by keeping the root area wet. Wisteria don’t like wet feet and will eventually succumb to root rot, but it will take more time and a lot of water.

 

Then I trimmed away all the leafy stems, leaving the nice branching framework overhead that to me is attractive.

 

I will plant a more demure flowering vine at the base and it will scramble up the old wisteria branches, so I don’t have to provide any twine or wire support to give it a leg up. Its already there.

I will choose a clematis from pruning group 3 that will grow fresh vines from the root each spring. Clematis from this group bloom in late summer and are the easiest to keep maintained and fresh looking. All the annual cleanup it will require is cutting it back to 12-20 inches (30-50 cm) or so from the ground each spring just as you see new growth beginning. The delicate vines will naturally die away in winter and will be easy to pull down and put in my compost pile. No weekly tendril cutting, no annual selective pruning, no ladders involved, and likely a longer bloom time than the wisteria.

There are hundreds of Clematis varieties to choose from. The important thing to remember is that they are divided into 3 groups, depending on best pruning methods for each. Their pruning group number will be 1,2 or 3. This number is also a good indicator of when it will bloom. A google search will give you links to a lot of great sites that will explain this further. I really like Lee Reich’s article in Fine Gardening Issue 90 “Pruning Clematis”. Just try to choose the plant from the pruning group that will make its upkeep easiest for you.

Now over to the Laurel. It is a self-supporting tree trunk, and I wanted to keep the branching structure to use as a trellis. After cutting off all the leaves and small branches I left only the largest branches in what I think is a nice looking structure.

  

 

Then I scored the trunk at the base, all the way around with a wood rasp to cut through the thin bark, thus cutting off the plant’s ability to transport nutrients and water up the tree’s vascular system. That will kill all of it above the cut, much like a deer will when he destroys the bark all the way around a tree trunk with his horns. This is a form of girdling the tree. Since it is a laurel, it will sprout from below the girdle, so I did also spray the stripped area with chemical concentrate herbicide. I don’t like using chemicals, but there are instances where it is the most effective way to achieve the result you want. The methods I choose are always to use the least amount of chemical possible. In this case, rather than spraying all the leafy growth and waiting for the whole thing to die, I only sprayed in its most critical areas, the fresh cuts, and let the trees vascular system take it down to the root.

 

I did all this 2 months ago and have seen no new sprouting, so I think it worked. This Laurel provided a small amount of privacy for us and the neighbors, so to get that back I have planted 2 Star Jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides) at the now girdled base. The poison in the root of the Laurel will not travel through the soil and affect the Jasmine or any neighboring plants. The jasmine will scramble up the trunk and branching left behind to provide an evergreen screen that will waft wonderful jasmine fragrance from July to August for both us and our neighbors. I can’t wait to see it fill in and enjoy the aroma in the warm summer breezes.

So that’s the rest of the story. A damaged and way too big laurel has become my Jasmine trellis and a high maintenance wisteria has also become a trellis up which an easy to maintain clematis will grow. By doing selective cutting and removal, I kept the structure from old, overgrown plants that were very high on the time-consuming maintenance list, on which I can grow new selections that are better suited to the spaces in which they are planted. That is how “right plant right place” gives the gardener more time to sip iced tea in their garden, enjoying the fragrances and the flowers, rather than just a lot of annually repetitive hard work.

Cheers!

In Bloom in my Garden Today: Sedum, Dianthus, Lavender, Agastache Anise Hyssop, Rose, Hydrangea, Nepeta, Salvia, Lobelia, Daisy, Knifophia, Cuphea, Geum, Fuchsia, Hardy Geranium, Potentilla, Asclepias, Gladiolus ‘Boone’ (heirloom 1920’s), Lysimachia ephemerum (non invasive loosestrife), Oregano

Authors photos


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Moving Rocks


What we learn with pleasure we never forget.
~Alfred Mercier

  
This triangular shaped bed contained an ornamental plum which was way too big of a tree choice to be planted in a space of this size. Before we moved in it had been pruned on two sides to keep it away from the house and gutters. That made it grow vertical sprouts over 2/3s of its canopy and normal outward branches on the side that didn’t get pruned. The unpruned side became heavy and was the leeward side so wind could potentially topple this tree. I decided early on it would have to come out.

The bed also contained Helleborus, Sedum, and Ajuga reptans. Being adjacent to a walkway the Ajuga had to be relocated. Anytime you plant near a sidewalk you will be happier if you don’t choose plants that have a far-reaching habit. Ajuga is great for carpeting large areas quickly but here it was in a pretty confined space. It spreads by reaching out in all directions with new stem growth that roots when it touches the soil. At a sidewalk it will quickly overrun it’s borders and you will have created more work for yourself because you will have to keep cutting it back.

As for the tree, I had a tree service come cut the tree down. It is fine to leave the stump in this case, as I can plant around it and it will rot in time. I am not a fan of chemical use but to leave a stump in place to rot over time, you may have to apply a chemical to the freshly cut stump to stop it from re-sprouting. It depends on what type of tree it is. Here I used a chemical herbicide on the cut end only. Minimal use.


  


Then I took out all the Helleborus and Ajuga in that bed. Being a shade loving plant, I relocated some of the Helleborus to a shadier spot, since the tree was providing shade in that bed. The majority of them I gave away to neighbors.


The bed was edged with large rocks on all three sides. It is a slightly raised bed toward the middle where the tree trunk was. The rock placement didn’t really do anything for the bed. I kept tripping on some because they lined the walkways on two sides and stepping on others near the water faucet, so I pulled them all out and set them aside in a pile. In so doing I was surprised to find they were lava rock and super lightweight.

As I was contemplating how to plant my now empty and raked bed with the stump in the middle, the word “outcropping” kept coming to mind.

So, that’s what I did.



I started by planting those lava rocks. Outcropping also creates little pockets that stabilize slopes and hold water better for your plants. Whenever you use rocks in the landscape, they should be buried up to 1/3 deep so they look natural. You “plant” your rocks, don’t just lay them on top.

Then I added in some plant divisions from my former garden, and a couple of new plants, one that I purchased and one that was a gift from our realtor and friend Gina . Best. Realtor. Ever!

Last but not least I topped it all off with a clay pot, which I balanced on top of the stump with soil and rocks. Can’t even see the stump now and it will rot over time.


What do you think? I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Now I need to go shopping for a vine maple which I will plant behind the pot for some vertical interest, fall color and will provide annual leaf mulch. Even at a mature size, a vine maple is a good choice for this space and it won’t require pruning to keep in confined.



And if you are lucky enough to find a fantastic tree guy as I did, he won’t roll his eyes when you ask if it would be too much to ask him to cut some of the trunk into stepping stone size thickness for your use in other parts of the garden. Well it never hurts to ask, right?
Thanks Rich at Signature Tree Service !   You made my day!

 In Bloom in My Garden Today: Cuphea Vermillionaire, Lobelia laxifolia, Gillenia, Yarrow, Potentilla, Sedum, Oregano, Daisy, Rose, Thyme, Dianthus, Nepeta

Authors photos

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Grass, Grass and More Grass


“Think back to the first time you explained to a nongardener that the lawn is just the place you stand when looking at your plants”
~ Steve Aitken, editor of Taunton’s Fine Gardening magazine

This place has a ton of lawn space. There is a huge strip of grass along the street, and being a corner lot, it wraps around the corner and goes partway up the perpendicular street. Then there is an upper strip along the front of the house. Then there is more on the east side of the house that wraps around the back and extends partway along the south side.

I like some grass in the landscape but for us, that is way too much to maintain and mow. Currently my better half and I share the mowing and grass maintenance jobs and neither of us want it to be more than a 30 minute endeavor. I, personally would rather spend my time gardening, or hiking, kayaking, going on long walks, not tending grass. However we both want to do the mowing as part of our outdoor exercise which is why we don’t hire it out. Mowing grass is a good cardio workout in the fresh air in the sun. But 30 min or less mowing is plenty of that particular activity. And it is easier to keep a properly mulched garden watered and weed free than acres of grass.

So, one of my first priorities, after getting control of the weeds in the garden spaces and grass, was to lessen the overall amount of grass. As you have read in previous posts on my blog I have had good results in smothering grass with cardboard topped with mulch or dirt. I will be doing that again in the back and side yard as you will see later, but this street side grass is too monstrous an area to lay cardboard and paying for yards of compost would be much too costly.




So, I decided to use wood chip. Not beauty bark. Wood chip. You can read my reasons why here, but for now suffice to say ‘free’ is my kind of price. I did pay an arborist his asking price for these first 12 yards because I wanted it now, he had it now, and I wanted him to drive and dump it along the street up on the grass in a stripe as long as he could get it. Not all arborists give it away free but many do.



I didn’t want to come home to find a tall pile dumped all in one heap and in the wrong place so I was getting picky and there are times you have to pay to get things your way. Subsequent chip loads I am getting free from other local tree trimming service companies to finish the job, since 12 yards wasn’t enough and I need to thicken the layer. I tried to rake it out to 6-8 inches thick but being such a large chunky medium, grass in some areas is finding the light and pushing its way up. That happens when cardboard isn’t used underneath your mulch. Mulch or dirt over cardboard doesn’t have to be so thick as the card board does the job of cutting off all the light. Chip takes a bit more supervision to get the job done. But in the end, it will work and, in the fall, or late winter it will be ready for my planting ideas.



It took me 2 days, 6 hours each to rake all this out and wheelbarrow it around  from the main drop. And yes, I mean me, moi, by myself. I don’t often ask my better half for help doing this kind of stuff even though he is willing. The garden is my love and joy, the easy parts and the hard parts. If I can’t do the work I need to come up with a different hobby. I will give credit to where credit is due when I do ask for help, but for the most part all the work you see in my posts I have done myself unless otherwise specified.



I am toying with planting options right now. I want to plant low growing shrubs so as not to cover the beautiful rockery. Viburnum Davidii, St John’s Wort (shrubs not ground cover), Burning Bush (Euonymus compacta), Spirea, Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ among others are making the list. In a few years’ time when they begin to fill in I will no doubt give you a before and after post of that area again.

And the very next day, literally barely 12 hours later, the gas company decided to do work in the area and found my lovely property the perfect place to lay their pipes as a staging area! Arrgh!!! They walked all over it, churning up the chip layer and generally messing up much of my hard work. My fear was if they churned it up it would be thinner is some areas and the grass would get through.


I did, nicely, explain how I had just finished raking all that out and my reasons for doing it and asked them please be careful. Happily, they removed their stuff and attempted to smooth it out but some damage had been done. Sigh. The churned-up areas did allow light to reach the grass under and it had started to poke up through. My next load was a finer consistency, so it compacted better to suppress the light. I piled more where I needed it. Now I can leave it all to rest and get onto other parts of the garden.

In Bloom in My Garden Today: Hebe, Shasta daisy, Cuphea “Vermillionaire”, Calendula, Rose, Hydrangea, Veronica, Dianthus, Nepeta, Gillenia, Sedum, Bletilla, Potentilla, Oriental Lily, Digitalis, Salvia,

Author’s photos


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Let the Fun Begin


My favorite flower is a dandelion, because they are everywhere!
~ Garden art contest entry, age 9

We have moved. We found this garden, I mean house in March, and began moving in April. As gardeners, you know those months in late winter and early spring are crucial for getting ahead of the weed fight. And weeds did this garden space have.

So since April, as soon as it was prudent for me to get my hands in the dirt of the new grounds while the closing-of-a-house process hummed along, I have been doing weed patrol on our new-to-us 9000 sq ft corner lot. The front has a wraparound rockery that is taller than I am, sporting beautiful big boulders. The back yard is terraced with smaller rocks.

The quote above doesn’t reflect my feelings for dandelions, which were legion in number and already blooming in every part of this yard. Truly they were everywhere. When kept in check and not allowed to form seed heads, dandelion flowers provide healthy pollen and nectar for pollinators and leafy greens for people’s food source. But when allowed to spread in urban environments they are a nuisance weed.

As I was pulling dandelions, (and shrieking at those that had already turned to seed puffs) I was also discovering fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), cleavers (Galium aparine), perennial pea (Lathyrus latifolius, which is on the Washington State Monitor list for noxious weeds), and a lot of turf grass that self-seeded in and amongst the perennials. Thankfully I have found no horsetail and only a few sprouts of English ivy.

The previous gardener put in some lovely perennial selections in the front rockery, which I will keep and perhaps divide or move to other parts of the garden. They also enjoyed self-seeding annuals like forget-me-not, Cosmos, Calendula and Nigella. 

I will keep the Calendula but reduce it to a lesser amount and collect the seeds to sow them where I want more, whereby controlling it’s spread.

I have grown Nigella before. It is also called "Love-in-a-Mist. It has a lovely flower  and the seed is used in some cultures for culinary purposes. You can control it's spread by cutting off the seed heads before they dry. If you want to save the seed for later sowing, allow them to dry on the plant naturally but remove them just as the little holes are opening on the top of the seed pod. 

Here (shown below) in the backyard terraces Nigella were allowed to self-sow and were rampant, thickly carpeting large areas with a mix of turf grass, dandelion, forget-me not and Nigella all tangling with Vinca Minor.



Out it all goes. While some gardens look lovely when annuals self-sow, they are a lot of work to keep contained and mostly look weedy to me, entangling themselves with surrounding plants. Not only that, Forget-me-not is one of those annuals that gets mildew as the plant dies down and looks ugly.

Back to the rockery in front (photo below). I will keep some of the Shasta Daisy and one or two of the Lemon Balm but cutting out quite a lot of both that have taken over and crowded out several other lovely hybrid varieties of Sage, Marjoram and Oregano. I have also pulled out Rumex which will self sow everywhere if given the chance. I will be adding in my favorites and many plant divisions I have taken from my previous garden. Yes, since the previous house is not yet listed for sale, I have been digging in my former garden but not so as to leave gaping holes. My old garden is so packed, I can easily remove favorite divisions without leaving a trace. 😊

Following posts will be the changes I make to edit this lovely garden and make it into my own. And yes, for those who know me and my methods, there will be lots of cardboard used. Good thing I have lots of packing boxes!


In bloom in my garden today: Dianthus, Veronica, Cuphea vermillionare, Hebe, rose, Shasta daisy, Calendula, Potentilla, Astrantia Major, Spirea

Author’s photos

Friday, June 12, 2020

Closing a Chapter


My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plants’ point of view.
– H. Fred Dale, Toronto Star garden writer and author of Fred Dale’s Garden Book, 1972

My blogging pen has been silent for a little while. Not that I haven’t been busy gardening. We have been busy moving. A new to us garden and house in a different city, but still in the Pacific Northwest. Since it’s a rainy morning today, I decided it was a good time to catch you up in my world.

I’ve been taking lots of pictures to show you of the new-to-me garden and the changes I am making, but haven’t taken time away from it to type up any posts.

As a start to the life transition and the turn this blog will take featuring the new garden, I thought I’d use this post as a recap and culmination of my previous garden. This first picture is of the weedy, grassy yard as it was when I bought that house, 34 years ago.




I was excited to buy my very first home all those years ago! Before this picture was taken the grass and dandelions were knee high and the shrubs were taller than me and sprawling every-which-way. You can read more about it in this earlier post. Over the years the garden ideas, successes and failures came and went, providing much education and the experiences for this blog.


This is the same yard today, pictured from roughly the same angle. All that grass gone, replaced by stone patio, retaining walls and plants, plants, and more plants! The garden now wraps around the whole house on a 5000 square foot urban lot. But you get an idea of what came out and what went in.






The posts to follow will be of my new yard. It is a tad larger sporting 9000 square feet.

Stay tuned! And thanks for reading.

In bloom in my garden today: roses, lavender, hardy geranium, cape fuchsia, heuchera, iris, nepeta, daisy, solanum crispum, wigela,

Author’s photos




Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Eye Candy



Despite the gardener's best intentions, Nature will improvise. 
~Michael P. Garafalo






I walk around my urban neighborhoods, alot. It is my favorite form of exercise, aside from gardening. Most of the photos in my posts, not of my garden, have come from those walks.

I have loved watching this tree slowly swallow up the fence over the years, and thought you might enjoy seeing it too.

In bloom in my garden today: Geranium Lily Lovell and the double white daisy are still eeking out a few blooms, but the pyracantha is the show stopper of the garden now.

Author's photo

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Eye Candy




Delicious autumn! 
My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird, 
I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
- George Eliot





The pyracantha berries are at their peak now in my garden. They are beautiful, bright, and full of goodness that the birds and squirrels are feasting on.

Plant pyracantha in full sun and prune before flowering in late winter or early, early spring and you and the birds will be rewarded year after year.

In bloom in my garden today: Cuphea vermillionaire, Double white daisy, Fuchsia, Hardy Geranium “Lily Lovell”, Knifophia, Lavender, Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria Formosa), Pachysandra axillaris 'Windcliff Fragrant', Salvia, Solanum crispum

Author’s photo

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Well Placed Rock


How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.
~Benjamin Disraeli

If you know you have a special spot on which passing dogs frequently leave their calling card, instead of fighting the inevitable, I suggest you work with the situation. You’ll be much happier. 

When I was working at the nursery, I can’t begin to tell you how many people came to buy plants that were to replace one that died because dogs kept “leaving their mark” on it until in death did it depart.

As I walked them toward the statuary/rockery area, I told them there is no use in replacing a plant, since a new one will likely succumb to the same demise if planted in exactly the same spot. The scent is still in the ground surrounding the planting site and if it remains accessible to passing dogs it will be a target too.

Consider a different choice of target. I used to have a heath (Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’) where you see the rock now. As you can see it’s easy leg-lifting distance from the sidewalk so even a leashed dog can hit it easily. The plant was half dead when I moved it 3 feet further away from the sidewalk. In no time at all it recovered and quickly regrew to its original size. 


That bright rock may look a little stark to you but that’s kinda the point. Think “visible target”.

Prominently placed rocks are a natural and beautiful addition to any garden. Professional landscape architects use them all the time. When using a large rock, always partially bury it so it looks like it would in nature. Try not to just plunk it down right on top of the dirt surface. Make sure it’s big enough to attract attention so that IT will draw Fido’s eye, not the plants around it.

You could use garden statuary or something carved from natural stone, both should last a long time. I would not use anything made from raw concrete. I think the acidity would eventually degrade your investment. 


 In my garden, that rock has been there for years with no signs of decay, and I have witnessed it’s “popularity”. Sadly, it must also be considered that whatever you use could be a target for theft so in my urban garden a big rock is perfect.

Happy gardening!

In Bloom in my Garden Today: Alyssum, Aster, Coreopsis ‘moonbeam’, Crocus, Cuphea vermillionaire, Cyclamen hederifolium, Daisy, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ (joe pye weed), Fuchsia, Geum, Heuchera, Kirengeshoma palmata, Kniphofia ‘Echo Mango’, Lavender, Nepeta ‘six hills giant’ (catmint), Phygelius, Salvia garanitica ‘black and blue’, Solanum crispum

Author’s photos