Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photo Update

I took some quick photos this morning, after realizing how few visuals I've been sharing here this season. All kinds of stuff going on, but man! Do my gardens need some work! Thank goodness I'm on vacation starting tomorrow.

I have another mystery plant. Two, in fact. I have no idea what this is:

And no idea where the heck these lovely irises came from! Did I put those there last year or something? Ack, my memory is terrible. I hope I wrote about them or something. They were NOT there last year, I know that.

Here are some shots from the back garden, which has really filled out. Here is the Pan-Am hosta I bought from my friend Gordon last year at his epic plant sale; it is said to be a descendant of one of the plants used at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo back in 1901.

And here is my new White Feather hosta! I love him.

Scented geraniums I took from my dad's wooded yard in New Hampshire. These are thriving, almost to the point of taking over!

The New Hampshire garden is an overgrown mess in the matter of a couple weeks! Eek! I also happened to notice that someone's using this garden as a buffet... lots of little holes in many of the leaves. Rats. I guess I should start sprinkling the eggshells that I collected all winter out there!

Fortunately, I DO remember planting these. They're the irises my cousin Marianne gave to me two years ago. Some came up last year, others didn't. Hm, I may have moved these over last year, actually. Ugh. Bad memory strikes again. Anyway... aren't they absolutely gorgeous? I am in love with them.

Finally, I will leave you with a close-up shot of my Wiegela Florida, which is in full bloom now. I just planted a variegated variety in the back a few weeks ago, and I can't wait for it to grow! This one is at the front corner of the house.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting Ready to Work

I am getting excited. May 2010 has been insanely busy for me, and I am impatiently awaiting the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off a nice two week long vacation for me. Unlike many people who take vacation, I look forward to staying at home and doing things around the house—especially gardening. I haven't had a lot of time to devote to my gardens yet and I am really itchy to get out there and do some major stuff!

This week we got our hot peppers into their larger containers and they're outside enjoying the very warm weather we've been having this week. Into the 80s during the day and the 60s at night. Just what peppers really love. My poor butterfly bushes are still in a holding pattern sitting in pots, and I really hope to get them in the ground this weekend.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a few photos I've taken in the past few weeks.

Violets! These came with the house, but I now also have four other varieties.

Here's what the little corner in the backyard looked like a few weeks back. You wouldn't believe how much the plants have filled in since then! I was shocked.

The shade garden abutting the back of the house. Solomon's seal just starting to unfold, plus a mystery plant. Can anyone help ID the one with the pretty blue flowers? They're lasting forever! The flowers look similar to forget-me-not, but the foliage is totally different. ANSWER (I think!): Omphalodes cappadocica, or Navelwort. Neat!

And the Bridal Wreath Spirea is performing the best it has in the three years we've known it. Just gorgeous.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Remiss Gardener

Oh my, my, my. I certainly AM remiss.

This spring has been much different than last, when I first started this blog. For one thing, I am a LOT busier with other stuff, mostly work. I have a full-time day job, a full-time online teaching gig, an art studio to maintain (I'm getting ready for a little restaurant show that opens on Monday), and I also teach various art workshops in the area. Lately, it's been really overwhelming and I am just trying to through the month of May. Thankfully, I have two weeks of vacation coming up starting on the Memorial Day weekend, so that will be a relief. I also have ideas about how I'd like to change my life in some ways in the coming months.

But anyway... back to the garden. I've been getting in there every so often, but lately it's been rainy, like April and May switched places. That makes it hard to get things done, too. Still, I got my second order of plants from Spring Hill that included the wiegela, a lovely fern, columbine, and those butterfly bushes I am so hot on. I got everything in the ground except the butterfly bushes, mainly because they're going in the front garden and on my vacation, the front garden is getting a MAJOR overhaul. So, I am hoping that they will do OK in their new pots for now, until I can get them properly situated.

Yep. I have plans to dig everything up in the front garden, add soil to it in order to create more of a mound (right now it's just ground level with no sort of border, so the grass always wants to grow into it) and thereby hopefully more attractive. I have a lot of lovely and interesting plants there, but I admit it's been all quite willy-nilly and after a couple years, it just looks crappy.

Major sad face here: I am an artist, after all.

The butterfly bushes are going to be the anchor of the garden. They'll be against the house and will provide a lovely backdrop for everything else, as opposed to the ugly foundation blocks that you see now. Then, I will everything else back into place. New places. Prettier groupings. It's going to be a pretty big job, all that digging and replanting, but it will be worth it, I know. I want that garden to be as nice as the back gardens. The back gardens taught me a good lesson: that it pays to plant groupings. (Of course, that didn't stop me from planting my toad lily plants intermittently... though I didn't have much of a choice!)

In other bush news, the lilac bush that put out blooms the size of forearms last year was really disappointing. And here I thought that the good pruning I gave it last year after it flowered would do it some good. Maybe the neighbors nicked it when they put the new fence in, though... hopefully next year she'll perform well again. The bridal wreath spirea, on the other hand, looks the best we've ever seen it since we bought the place. It developed branches that actually swooped down, and it is flowering profusely. Gorgeous. I hope it doesn't get invaded by aphids again this year.

In veggie news, our seed starting hasn't gone so well. Next year, we're definitely getting a lighting set-up. We've had the best luck with pepper plants (some that we harvested from last year's Thai pepper plants, even -- thrown in the soil not expecting anything!) except for the habaneros, and an accordion tomato. The lettuce sprouted all over the place, but then went leggy and just kind of collapsed on our kitchen counter, sadly.

A couple weekends ago I attended a workshop about starting seeds that was really fun if only to meet some new people. It turns out that I knew much of the information that was shared, but I had a great time and got to take home a couple small flats of planted seed -- tobacco and three different types of corn -- none of which have sprouted. *sigh* I don't know. I'm a little discouraged, but won't give up on doing this stuff myself. I want to be able to! My parents did! I remember their set-up in the basement when I was little. I need a set-up, is all. I have to grow some of those rare white habanero seeds I bought from a seller on Etsy!

The asparagus put out maybe half a dozen stalks among three plants before they sent up ferns. The fourth plant didn't send anything up this year at all. Hopefully the harvest will be much better next year. I tell you what, though, it is fascinating to see how they grow out of the ground! It was worth it just for that, even if they never grow again. Fantastic to see where your food comes from, how it grows.

We did get our shipment of chile peppers, twelve plants in all, from Cross Country Nurseries, but it's timed a bit early. Not nearly warm enough to put them out, so we're nursing the gorgeous plants in the basement for now. It's our third year buying plants from them, and I have nothing but kudos. Good stuff. Hopefully we won't kill them before we can get them situated.

If only the weather would cooperate now!

Finally, I am looking forward to participating in Garden Bloggers Buffa10 this July. It'll be my first, and I am excited about all the events that are planned. Lots to look forward to this summer.

(Oh, and did I mention that I am turning 40 in a few short weeks? I am celebrating it, yessir!)

Friday, April 30, 2010

MOAR plantin'

Yes, MOAR. Which is, like more than more. :)

My first Spring Hill order arrived yesterday, and while some of the plants were pretty root-bound, overall I was very happy with their condition. The packing is done really well -- in fact, I learned a little something from the way they package their plants. I will definitely continue to do business with them, and looking forward to my next order's arrival (butterfly bush, more shade plants, etc.) shortly.

So I got myself out in the backyard last evening to get the babies in the ground. I am so excited about having toad lilies and more varieties of viola! Oh, and two columbine plants went in the front garden, too. Boy oh boy, does that poor plot need work. So much to clean out, I feel awful that I haven't gotten to it yet! Among all my activities (mostly professional stuff) I just don't have as much time as I'd like these days. I guess I will just have to time things out in a really structured way... spend 15 minutes or a half hour doing x, then move on to y in any given evening, and so on.

I am very, very happy about how the back gardens are developing, though. It's hard to believe that I started from almost scratch back there and now I'm running out of room for my beloved shade plants! I almost think I prefer shady gardens over anything else. Pictures to come soon!

And I really want to get a few more small veggie/herb garden beds dug, too! Who knows when that will happen. :(

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Need Help. Yes, I Do.

More damage, after rethinking in which direction I want to take the front, sunny garden. It is in desperate need of anchors and focal points. After much consideration, I decided that three Black Knight Butterfly bushes would be just the thing to plant at the back of the bed, against the house, beneath the row of windows in the sun room. They will go well with the architecture and the period of our house, I think. And... they were on sale at the crack house, er, I mean Spring Hill. Yes, back to that place again.

Add some Virgina Bluebells, Variegated Weigela, Japanese Painted Fern, Winterglory Bergenia, and a White Feather Hosta... well, I took advantage of their $25 off coupon this time. I am embarrassed. (I'd link to the respective plants but I can't bring myself to do it. They're all nice plants.)

I need to stop now, though, because I am going to be awfully busy moving a lot of plants in that front garden. I'll be busy enough and I DON'T NEED ANY MORE PLANTS! NOT EVER, in fact. Unless they are free, or I grew them from seed. (Aw, but I do still need some hellebores, and from what I understand, they are quite difficult to grow from seed. Cut me some slack on that?) The best I can say is that I am investing in the beauty of our landscape, which will add to our home's value. Yes?

Yes, Jim, I do need an intervention. Thanks.

We Have Lettuce!

Holy moly! We have lettuce! Last night as I was putting away food from dinner before going to bed, some things caught my eye in the lettuce bed on the counter... that's right, lettuce seedlings of both types! Coming up like gangbusters! In three days, can you believe it?

I just had to share. Now we can have fresh lettuce of myriad varieties all year 'round! This is really exciting. Also, today our heating mat arrives, so hopefully we can get those other seeds that I planted on Monday going, too.

Nature just amazes me, completely and utterly.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I went over the deep end a wee bit today. Payday. And since I have been working two full-time jobs (one online, so it's not TOO bad), I have some room to play. A little. Hey, I still have plenty of financial obligations so I shouldn't go too crazy.

Well, we've been wanting to get a seed starting heating mat, so I ordered one of those from Amazon; then I added a couple books about saving seeds and growing from seed (it's an investment!). Then, I heard that Spring Hill had a $20 deal thingy, so I went over there and bought three types of violet (Yellow Perfection, Etain, and Freckles), some Matsukaze toad lilies, some William Guiness columbine, and... I think that's it. Yes, that's it. And then I went and paid for an Etsy order of iris rhizomes I had placed a few days ago. OK. that is all for me as far as online ordering goes this year. Going to nurseries in person with my mom or other family members? All bets are off on that one.

I also placed reservations with a local tomato and pepper grower for a few plants: Earl of Edgecomb, Sungold, Snow White, Pearl's Yellow Pink, and Nepal tomatoes, as well as a Chichimeca Hybrid jalapeno. Those I won't be getting until well into May.

Then there's my friend Gordon's annual plant sale. I'm sure I'll want some things from him...

And I still need some manure and mulch. I am finally mulching for real this year!

Ack... does this happen to everyone who loves gardening? It's like a sickness. Help.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Starting Seeds

This year, we're diving into the world of seed starting for the first time. I suppose you could count my impetuous decision to stick a zucchini seed in the asparagus patch "just to see what would happen—probably nothing" as my first, but I don't know—it was so ridiculously easy that I surely can't count it, can I?

So far my expertise has lied with transplanting and I do well with it for the most part. But we really want to be able to grow things from seed ourselves; for one thing it is much, much cheaper. And for another thing, I enjoy a challenge and want to see how successful I can be at it! So far six out of eight of our winter sowing has produced seedlings, so that is exciting. But I also want to have success with indoor growing, too.

C. and I seem to have different approaches to seed starting. I have more of a carefree attitude about it, whereas he would prefer to read up on it and do things by the book. So he scoffs as I plant some rare white habanero seeds without the benefit of a heating pad and stick them on the windowsill with little greenhouses made of Ziploc baggies in which I've punched small holes. So, only time will tell how things will pan out. I hope that I am right and that I'll be seeing tiny seedlings in the next few weeks. I'd like to think, "Well, they're living things; they'll grow!" A bit na¨i;ve, I know. But you never know, right?

Today we planted some lettuce seeds in a window box container that we're keeping on the kitchen counter—some Crisp Mint and Rossimo that we got from Seed Savers. We figure, the conditions are just about right for lettuce in our house, and hopefully they'll get sufficient light. We'd love to be able to munch on fresh greens year-round, that is for sure. I also planted the aforementioned white habanero seeds that I bought from Azure Dandelion, whom I discovered on Etsy and who seems very kind. I also tried some of her Accordion tomato seeds, plus Joe's Round pepper from Seed Savers.

They're all sitting in a row on the sill. I'm waiting for stuff to start happening.

In other news, we have strawberry blossoms! And more violets! And ferns!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's that time again!

Yes, I really feel it is OK to declare that it is gardening season again, even though we actually had a very light sprinkling of... *ahem* snow the other day.

Though I'd been out looking around cursorily in the past few weeks, today was the first day that I did any serious looking, and taking photos. I have exciting garden news to share!

First of all, our winter sowing has been productive. Both the flowers I tried (Foxglove and Lupine) have produced multiple seedlings... but that's kind of old news, actually. The tomatoes that we'd just about given up on (well, C. wrote them off, but I didn't) are showing results, finally! Three out of six of the varieties we sowed have pushed up seedlings: Black Cherry and Sugar Lump (both cherries), plus Bonny Best.

Second, the asparagus has arrived! If you recall, I planted four crowns in a new plot last year and all four grew up successfully into those cute ferny-like plants. This year, right now, the first guy has shown himself, same one who appeared first last year as well. And it looks like a real asparagus!


Next, I have a bit of a mystery on my hands. See, last year at the end of the season, I decided to plant some seeds to see what would happen. Except now? Um, I... forget what I planted. I am pretty certain it was onions. I think it looks like onions, anyway. See what you think.

I know, it is ridiculous that I forgot what I planted. I guess I was so certain that I could never forget, that I just let it out of brain all together. Stuff like that seems to happen a lot with me, hence it being a great idea to blog everything I do in the garden, and otherwise. ;) I think I still have the seed packet somewhere, and that would answer my question. No, I do not have an organized system for storing my seeds. I'm working on it.

I am also excited to see that I have some peony shoots in the front garden! See?

These are special because they came from my dad's place in New Hampshire. I was a little sad last year when I transplanted them—it was in the early summer and I think the optimum time to do that is in the fall, and they didn't seem to fare well at all once in our soil. But! They're back and it looks like it reproduced like crazy. You can't really tell from the photo, but there are quite a number of these shoots in that area. I am so happy about this—peonies have been some of my favorite flowers since my early childhood when I'd see huge clumps of them at my grandparents' house. These particular plants have double sentimental value to me for that reason—they're the first I am growing myself, from my dad's garden, with the memory of my maternal grandparents.

Gardens are pretty nifty in that way.

Speaking of my dad, I'm also seeing those adorable fern shoots coming up. I just love those, and they came right from the woods on dad's property. Ugh, not the best photo here; I had a hard time getting a good angle and being able to steady my hands. But I wanted to document it anyway.

Finally... I am hoping that someone can offer some advice here. Some of my violets are blooming already! These, I think, came from my mom's sister, my Aunt Dorothy. I also have some others that came with the house, though I did move them to their current location nearby. What I need to know is, what on earth is already nibbling at the leaves??? Last year the slugs didn't start in on the hostas until late summer, so I don't think it's them... but who knows. Anyone hazard a guess?

I also spotted recognizable leaves from columbine, four o'clock (I think), astilbe, and delphinium, among many other things. Sedum is coming up like crazy, as is hens and chicks, and the hostas are starting to sprout. I didn't get any work done today (including planting the new astilbe, but I think they are OK), but I sure am getting excited to dig in once and for all. My next big project is going to be starting another veggie plot in the center of the back yard. I just got this cool book called One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein that I'm going to use as a guide and inspiration, and I should probably get started on that really soon—at least digging it out.

Finally, I'll leave you with a lovely photo of my mom's front yard. Last weekend, C. and I helped her do spring clean up—what a test of our (lack of) fitness! Those huge, ancient willow trees really shed a lot in winter. It was fun and satisfying work, though, and certainly an impetus to get into better shape so we can do all sorts of fun things this summer and beyond.

So many things to look forward to!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Morning Glories

I just happened upon some information about morning glories and now I'd like to grow some, all over the place. I think I am going to throw a bunch, along with some sort of support, along the back row of the front garden. All different types.

The weather has been unseasonably warm and sunny, and there are all sorts of lovely things poking their heads out of the soil. I am hoping to poke around a bit this evening and see what we've got so far; tomorrow we're heading out to my mom's and will perhaps do some nice spring cleanup there. I have some astilbes that I ordered from Breck's on a whim that need to go in the ground—I hope they are not dead! They came late last week and I haven't had time to do anything with them. :( Poor babies.

I also acquired some new strawberry plants from a coworker who is overrun with them. I have my little patch in the back that seems to be thriving; her plants look slightly different than mine, so it will be interesting to see what we end up with. I'll definitely make sure to get some netting for them this year, so that WE get to eat most of them, rather than the birds and critters!

Ack, it is so hard to resist wanting to do all sorts of things that I probably shouldn't just yet because it's just too early, no matter what the weather feels like.

Ooh, and I almost forgot: I think I am going to dig out another plot in the middle of the back yard for experiments. Flowers and veggies and herbs. Exciting!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back, anticipating

Well, hello!

I just wanted to peek in after having tried our first batch of winter sown plants today.

I didn't realize how long I've been away. I guess the big bummer of having our bonsai stolen, along with finally getting hit with blight on our tomatoes, I was feeling a little sour about things. But, lately the seed and plant catalogs have been rolling in, and we're getting inspired. It looks like we're going to be at our current home for another growing season (we weren't so sure there for a while), so we're able to plan for what we'd like to do here.

So, you're maybe wondering what seeds we planted today? I did lupine and foxglove, along with five different varieties of tomatoes that C. picked out among the free seeds we got from the Winter Sown website (see link above, it's a nifty site!). There's more to come, though. I've been dying to try the winter sowing since the beginning of the year but time has really gotten away from me. We have a wish list of seeds we'd like to get from Seed Savers and will probably place the order this week. Here's what we're going to try!

pepper, habanero red
pepper, joe's round
watermelon, moon and stars van doren
carrot, scarlet nantes
lettuce, bronze arrowhead
lettuce, crisp mint
lettuce, rossimo
lettuce, yugoslavian red
pea, dwarf grey sugar
cucumber, Boothby's blonde

Sadly, I didn't get a chance in the fall to lay down newspapers and plastic in order to reserve more space for garden beds, but we'll be doing a lot fewer tomatoes and peppers this year in containers that we'll use for the leafy veggies and who knows what else. I'm really crossing my fingers we won't run into blight this year again. We were fortunate to be able to harvest quite a lot of our tomatoes, but who likes to see those sad, sad plants when they're dying prematurely? Not I.

I also bought a copy of Four Season Gardening recently and have really been enjoying reading about all the extended season possibilities. At the very least C. and I have decided that we definitely want to move to a home with more land than what we have now, no matter what. I'm hoping within the next two years or so we'll be able to do that. Who knows.

So, tell me! What are you doing while awaiting spring's happy arrival?

P.S. I want to grow hellebores!