Friday, October 19, 2007

A sad October day ...

Henry McEnroe (April 25, 2006-October 18, 2007)

I'm writing to tell you of the passing of our sweet dog, Henry. If you were on this blog in July, I posted this photo of him swimming in the lake. He died unexpectedly Thursday.

Prior to an appointment for being neutered on Wednesday, the doctor withheld surgery after detecting a heart murmur and unusual noises from his heart. We had an x-ray and EKG done. We received the results Thursday morning that everything appeared OK. Within an hour of speaking to the doctor, Henry suffered what might have been congestive heart failure. Only our two oldest children were home at the time and were the only ones to witness his final moments. Henry was only 1 year old.

Words cannot describe the grief I feel. He is the second dog we've lost in less than 2 years. Josie, our 12-year-old Westie, had failing health last year and we gracefully put her down and ended her suffering. It was a hurt that I thought I wouldn't feel again in many years. I was horribly wrong.

Henry was challenged from the get-go. He was the runt of the litter and even when we got him, he needed extra TLC. His littermates had been unkind to him and he had open wounds on his underbelly that needed immediate attention. Undaunted by this, we took him home anyway. He bounced back from his early adversity and was a loving member of our family. He craved human companionship - and we reciprocated. I joked that he was my "boyfriend" and he was! He was so much a part of my daily routine from morning until night. My heart aches at the injustice of it all. His life was just beginning.

We are dog people and for others like us, losing a pet is so personal. I am only comforted in the fact that we made his short life on earth a good one. He was cared for, nurtured and oh, so loved! I cannot tell you how many kisses we gave him and how many more he gave us. Henry's needs were simple: a warm lap and a kind hand.

We will miss you buddy. You are forever my boyfriend and little Schnauzer boy and we all love you ...

I hope you find a warm lap to sit on in heaven.
"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached, unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way."
- Author unknown

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Until next spring ...

Just wanted to bid a temporary farewell to my handful of blog friends who have visited over the past few months. As the growing season comes to an end, I have found little to no time to tend to my blog (and garden) for that matter. I am slowly putting my garden to "bed" for the winter and thus, this blog will go on hiatus until next April. The next few months will be busy with many hockey games (I am the communications volunteer for my son's high school team which includes lots of emails, web editing, newsletters etc...), Girl Scout outings and various school functions. Such is the life of a working mom with three active kids.

So for now - so long. I will periodically check everyone's blog as time allows. Have a wonderful fall and winter season!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Great Garden Quote ...

This sent to me by my wonderful sister ... thanks Barb!

When you see a beautiful flower garden, try to meet the owner. Beautiful gardens are often tended by the nicest and most interesting people.

- H. Jackson Browne, Life's Little Instruction Calendar

Tomorrow would have been my mother's 80th birthday. My mom took off for heaven 15 years ago after battling cancer. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her - whether in a funny or melancholy way. Anyway, I can't help but think that she would be proud of this new passion I have found in gardening.
We lived in a very modest house growing up and mom didn't have a lot of garden space. Our house faced north and I remember she had the most beautiful impatiens. She nurtured those plants all summer long and they were glorious in color - salmon, pinks and purples. I remember her going out in pouring rain to collect rain water from the spouts just so she could nourish her flowers with that precious water. Only now do I understand why she did what she did for her flowers.
So Mom, happy birthday. And if you're looking down on me and my garden today, I hope you give me a thumbs up for effort!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fall musings

It's been a long time since I've posted anything! Been very caught up with getting kids to school, practices and the normal school-year routine. My garden time has been cut short (as you might imagine) but it's supposed to be nice this weekend so I plan on having a little "mom time" in the dirt.

One blogger (thanks Kate!) asked if we had any frost yet - no, but it's getting awfully close. As I look on my desktop this morning it's 37 degrees. The cherry tomatoes are still blooming and I still have annuals. My sedum has turned a beautiful brick red so now I know it's autumn.

Earlier this week I stopped over to my friend's house (Kathy, the master gardener) with shovel in hand. She wants to redesign her garden and simplify. (Refreshing memory: She had removed all of her grass in her backyard and filled it with perennials and ornamental grasses.) She has a lake home that she is landscaping plus maintaining her regular home. I guess the garden work for both was getting to be too much.

Anyway, she let me have anything I wanted and as much as I wanted. I was like a kid in a candy store.

I took lungwort (with pink and purple blooms), another ligularia (the kind that I couldn't identify earlier), astilbe, primrose, neon sedum, liatris and a cool plant I had never heard of - Kathy called it Pig Squeal?!?! I Googled it and came up with Pig Squeak or bergenia. It has real rubbery leaves like the sedum. Good - maybe rabbits won't eat it.

In anticipation of my "shopping" at Kathy's, I cut down seven potentilla (sp?) shrubs that were dying and had several layers of rock underneath (see photo). (back-breaking work) I was rewarded at the end because the dirt underneath the rock and landscape fabric was excellent and not clay-like.

What I couldn't fit in the front of my house, I placed in this new area. A temporary home, if you will.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hillside beauty

I went back home to see my Dad last weekend and he kept telling me about this spectacular garden that I had to see. The home was nestled on a hillside and it's an absolute garden oasis. I've never seen so many different hostas, coleus and unique landscaping. Perched at the top of the hill was a darling indoor greenhouse where the homeowners must sow her annuals each year. She must have had 4-5 different seating areas on the hill, a small gazebo, unique antique ornaments and wide variety of perennials.

I brought my girls with me and one of them quipped, "Mom, imagine if this was YOUR backyard!" I can't! I don't know if I would get anything done otherwise. You can tell that this garden was well-tended and given the utmost TLC. It was a treat to visit ....
Enjoy the photos!

I couldn't identify this plant - anybody know what it is?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Heirloom seeds

My aunt recently stopped at my house and perused my garden. After walking around my house and gardens she then posed an interesting question to me, "Would you like some of grandma's marigold seeds?"

Wow! Something of Grandma's - and garden related! Grandma K has been gone for 20 years and I am amazed that my aunt still has her seeds. Grandma didn't have a big garden area at her home but I do remember she had colorful annuals all around the house. My aunt kept the seeds and have planted them over the years. Amazing ...

My problem is that I don't have a place to sow these indoors and honestly, don't have the time (or patience) to babysit them. If I plant them in the ground in the spring, I will be waiting until the end of July to see them bloom or worse, risk losing them if the rabbits get them in the early stages. Argh ...

So as much as I love the idea of having something from my Grandma's garden, I do so with much trepidation ..... am I looking at this wrong?
Speaking of marigolds - has anyone tried growing the Signet marigolds? I saw them in a garden tour and they were lovely and very dainty. I'm guessing I'd have to grow those from seed too ...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sedge adds an edge ...

This time of year my flowers tend to look a little spent. Most of the perennials (aside from the coneflower, rudebeckia and sedum) have bloomed already and have been cut back. I've already moved some around and planted them in my new space. To give my garden a little pick-me-up, I recently purchased some annual Red Rooster sedge to fill in the bare spots - wow! What a difference that can make. When I bought it, the woman told me that I can cut it down to about 3 inches and bring it inside and replant it in the garden landscape or, use it in a pot next spring. It is a beautiful coppery color that will be a nice accent for fall and winter. What a nice (and inexpensive way) to give your garden a fresh look during the waning days of summer ...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cause for celebration

I finally grew my very first cherry tomatoes.

I know it's not much of a feat. Some of you experienced gardeners might even roll your eyes and say "Big deal!" but for me it's quite an accomplishment.

I've tried to do the patio tomato plants only to toss them out after a few good rain storms. Tomatoes and me have never gotten along. Love to eat 'em - but loathe to plant 'em. I've never had much interest in vegetable gardening. Maybe because I associate it with the back-breaking weeding my dad had us kids do in his garden at my grandma's house. Everytime I smell dill, I still think of dad's garden.

My faithful co-worker and vegatable gardener Barb inspired me (or dare I say "challenged" me) to plant a cherry tomato. She'd come to work boasting about her homemade salsa and tomato sauce. And I actually was pretty envious of her green thumb. Why can't I do that?!

So, late in June I was at a garden shop and found a whole section of robust cherry tomato plants (Sweet 100s) - for only $.60 each. What the heck - I grabbed three and they've been going nuts ever since. My first real tomato greeted me this week and it was delicious.
I've come to realize that tomato plants (at least mine) really do need to be in the ground. We dug out an overgrown area in the back that is nestled in full sun and I put them there. It obviously was the right spot for them and I am reaping the benefits.
Thanks Barb!

New plant update ... the Grand Parade Monarda

I picked up this new Canadian monarda and it's now producing wonderful blooms. It's a petite variety - nothing like the Jacob Cline or Marshall's Delight. It's a nice grower -compact with dark green leaves and a lovely purple/pink color. I think I'd like to split this apart this fall and expand the area. I like it way better than the Petite Wonder.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Critter free - almost

Every year I complain about rabbits in our backyard. We live on the edge of town and near the Red River where critters have found happy homes. I have tried all kinds of concoctions to fight them off: cayenne pepper, dog hair, moth balls, coyote blood, fox urine - you name it. The only thing I haven't done is the BB gun, and Lord knows I've thought about that too.

I have found that the best thing is to maintain plants that they don't like. It was a hard lesson for me to learn. The first growing season at our house I lost hundreds of dollars just because I didn't realize how bad the rabbits were. Within days of being planted, those little *?!*@#* had eaten darn near everything to the ground. It was like laying out a buffet table.

Plus, it was exhausting. I was out there early in the morning looking for any overnight damage. I'd come home on my lunch hour and give it another check - and well, you can imagine what I did during the evening too.

So here's what I realized what rabbits won't eat - at least in my garden. I also like these plants because they give me some color.
  • Salvia (I have the May Night, Caradonna. Marcus and East Friesland)

  • Monarda (I have five different varieties - and they won't touch 'em)

  • Catmint (see earlier post about how much I love catmint. I have the Walker's Low and the Little Titch)

  • Sedum

  • Daylilies

  • Cushion Spurge

  • Blue fescue grass

  • Silvermound

  • Lamium

  • Bellflower (I thought sure the flowers would be a for certain appetizer)

  • Geraniums and sometimes marigolds (they got to mine this year)

  • Celosia

Dangerous items to plant in rabbit zones:

  • Liatris: both the white and purple

  • Coneflower (they've eaten all varieties - apparently they're very tasty)
  • Rudbeckia

  • Clematis

  • Spiderwort

  • Hostas

  • Annuals in general (petunias, lobelia, alyssum - it's like tossing them a salad.)

In an earlier post I had successfully grown zinnias this year but I do believe it's because the area was surrounded by salvia. They usually ate the zinnias plants when they were about 3 inches high.

Another reason that maybe the grasses will be a good idea ...
Feel free to add to the list!

Friday, August 3, 2007

My "Maiden" voyage to grasses ...

Got a way from posting after the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse. I live in North Dakota but the shock of this event reverberated so strong. EVERYONE here has a friend or relative in the Twin Cities and most of us were on the phone that Wednesday evening to check on their well-being. My thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one and are suffering as I write this ...

My bright spot this week is that my friend and garden guru Kathy came to look at my new garden and gave it a thumbs up. That meant a lot to me as Kathy is the one that nurtured this interest in me and showed me the ropes. I respect her opinion.
She has some good ideas, tips and a whole new design plan for my backyard. A plan that is pretty aggressive which I'm not sure my husband is all that crazy about it as of yet!

Kathy has always been an ornamental grass enthusiast. I think the Karl Forester is lovely as is Maiden Grass. But beyond that - I could take it or leave it. Anyway, Kathy wants to split up her overgrown grasses and has offered to design my backyard area into a grass oasis. Gone will be the daylilies, the salvia and the few scraps of monarda and geraniums I have now. It's kind of exciting thinking about a garden with a whole new look but it's kind of out of my comfort zone.
My husband isn't much for my garden but the only thing he DOES like is red in the garden - so this might be a tougher sell. I begged Kathy to keep the little rock garden - she relented but she's still trying to talk me out of red geraniums. She said it's something about red geraniums and cemeteries ...
I have to admit - that is my first early memory of flowers. As a little girl, my mom and grandma dutifully planted geraniums at graves where they produced endless displays of stinky flowers. And here I am, 40 years later, putting stinky red flowers into my garden.
More to follow ...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dog paddling, vacation and open spaces

Sitting lakeside with a margarita in your hand is one of life's small pleasures. We had a great time relaxing with family and taking in all the sights and sounds of the lake (aren't loons the best?), small shops, etc.. Oh, if every week could be like this! Our mini Schnauzer Henry tried swimming for the first time - what a trooper he was. Is he not the cutest guy?!

My sister-in-law and I couldn't resist the small-town nurseries and flea markets that were trying to get rid of their inventory. One place in Vergas, Minnesota had their perennials as low as $2.70 each! Of course, they weren't large plants but they were green and healthy and they begged me to take them home with me! Why not try some new varieties at that price? I bought a Sunray Coreopsis, "Goblin" Gaillardia and Lady's Mantle.

And now I have the space!

My poor husband survived the sweltering heat Saturday to expand my garden bed (original design is above) in the front of the house. He tried using a sod cutter but the blades were dull and it made the area even worse. So he got out the shovel and started diggin'. We put our 16-year-old son to work too. He created a small area in our backyard that will be a perfect home for zinnias and cosmos seeds next year. Nothing like some hard manual labor on a 90-degree day ....

Anyway, the space is wonderful - with at least 5 hours of sun in the morning/early afternoon. At its furthest point- the space extends about 5-6 feet. The soil is remarkably good - lots of worms which is always an encouraging sign. We added some fresh dirt and a little peat. I'll mix some compost in the area in the spring too.

Of course, that area will be a little barren until fall when I start filling it up. I'll divide overgrown perennials that have worn out their welcome and transplant cuttings from generous friends and relatives. I'm such a garden geek.

The challenge now is that I have a new canvas on which to draw on and at times it's quite overwhelming. Do I move the hostas even though the landscape has a slight slope? Do I bring the rudbeckias forward? Where do I put the Lady's Mantle? What about that ligularia I was going to buy?!?

As you can see, I have lots of questions and lots of yellow, green and white in my current color scheme. Any ideas for flower combos that would look good with what I have?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beating the heat of late summer

My garden is looking very good right now and wouldn't you know - this is the week that we leave on vacation and it's supposed to be in the 100s. My plants won't get my TLC! I plan to give everything a good soaking first and move my potted annuals into shade in my absence. Wish me luck.

Here's a look at what my purple coneflower is doing. This is from the plant that I showed earlier that was part lime green on the bottom and dark green on top. The blooms are magnificent. It's the best coneflower I've had in years.

The best news to report is that my husband has let me expand the garden! We are going to expand out front where it is part-shade and part-sun. I've been scouring the nurseries trying to figure out what to put in there - here's what I know for sure: astilbe, ligularia and maybe some Early Sunrise coreopsis. I went on a garden tour this week and found one garden full of California poppies - it was lovely, but I'm afraid I don't have enough sun for that ...

See you in a few days!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Zinnias in bloom ...

We moved into our home in September of 2004, and every year I've tried to grow zinnias from seed. This year was the first time I have succeeded. Why, you might ask? RABBITS. We live on the edge of city limits where rabbits are everywhere. They're destructive, despicable creaturesthat if hungry enough - will eat anything (they even ate my marigolds. MARIGOLDS!!!).

So at a weak moment at my local CVS store, I picked up a pack of zinnia seeds and said what the heck. I planted two packs on the east side of my house and to my surprise, the rabbits didn't go after them. I did nothing differently from years past and right now, I'm enjoying my first zinnia patch in yearsand lovin' it.

My friend Angie told me she has over 100 blooming right now with more to come. Now that's a zinnia garden! There are a few flowers that literally make me smile when I look at them. Maybe it's their color, their beauty, their foliage or their aroma, etc... but zinnias are one of them. They are the happiest flower. Vibrant, drought resistant and always forth coming. I especially like the "Envy" variety that are lime green. The one pictured above is a smaller variety - I typically like the larger ones. Either way - it's all good.

What rudbeckias SHOULD look like!

Let's not confuse this with the batch that I complained about earlier. I bought this plant in late May and planted it in a different spot in my garden. Fortunately, they didn't suffer the fate of my other BES.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rudbeckia update

I consulted my gardening mentor (former neighbor and master gardener Kathy) and she confirmed that my plants have black spot (see earlier post and ugly photo under "Trials and Tribulations"). Her advice was to just take off the worst leaves. Black spot doesn't hurt the plant, but it is ugly. She also suggested to simply cut it down to the ground and wait until next year (and toss in some fast growing seed of some sort just for this year). Kathy said sometimes rudbeckias do that - leaves and no flowers. She said hers did that a few years ago and this year, they are triple everything.

There is hope after all ... but until than I have to look at a barren patch in my front yard. Gasp!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Catmint gone wild!

When they said Walkers Low catmint is the longest blooming of the catmint family - they weren't kidding.

This plant (front center of photo) has literally been blooming since early May and has not stopped. In fact, I've had to shear it twice to keep its shape. The catmint is happy and showy and no matter how much rain, wind or paws that walk across the bed, it always bounces back. One of the plants got so big this spring that I dug it up and split it four ways and each new transplant has thrived. What a great purchase ....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Annabelles - how I love thee

I'm crazy about the Annabelle hydrangea. I think they're a must in every perennial garden. Their large chartreusse globes are so round and robust. They make a powerful statement in anybody's garden. Of course, I am a little partial to them as I planted one in honor of my daughter, Annabel. Little did I know that our love affair would last over nine years. I think it's here to stay ...

I was a little disappointed this year when we hired someone to powerwash and stain our front deck. I asked the guy to be careful with my Annabelle. He said, "Oh no problem, plants usually bounce back." Well, he hammered my Annabelle and the poor thing is a little lobsided now - and that's been over a month ago. I have resigned myself to the fact that this year I'll have to make do. Come next spring, I might give it a fairly hard cut and start fresh and have all the branches at about the same level. Right now, I have large branches and stubby ones from where the powerwash had ripped them to shreds. Sigh ...

I've never tried vinca before and this year I thought I would try it. One of my favorite hobbies is antiquing and flea marketing. My sister-in-law and I go to the Shady Hollow Flea Market in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota a few times each summer. We bought some cream cans and I filled them with vinca and verbena and they are flourishing! The bright pink vinca really bring out the charm in those old cans. I'll have to plant those again next year .... plus, they are so easy maintenance. Sorry, but I'm sick of petunias!

Trials and Tribulations

We haven't had rain in weeks and my garden is slowly starting to show some ill effects. I kept everything hydrated very well but the one thing I noticed that is WAY behind is my rudbeckia. Plus, I'm seeing these odd brown/black spots.

I am very discouraged. I thought Black-Eyed Susans were some of the hardiest of the perennials and I've never experienced this. In fact, I was boasting the merits of this plant to my sister and gave it to her as a gift for her garden in coastal Maine. I hope she has better luck with it than I am! Of course, it is only July 8. I'll post new photos in a few weeks to show you how it's doing. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcome ...

And here's another weird one. Have you ever seen a plant that is yellow at the bottom and green at the top? I think it must have got too much water at one time so I cut back. I used to hook up the hose right behind the plant (see it on the house?). I think that did it in ...

Once I stopped using that faucet, I noticed that it did get a little greener. This coneflower did NOTHING last year and now it's huge - despite the odd coloring. There are several blooms on it so we'll see how it does in a few weeks.

P.S. I mulched my whole front and side gardens with cocoa bean mulch. I went on a tour of homes last year and one gardener told me how much she liked it. And I admit, it was a very neat-looking garden without the whole mess of wood chips. I tried it and now I'm a believer. Cocoa bean mulch looks good, smells good and doesn't completely upset your garden if you like to move things around all summer. I just put a new dressing on my beds this weekend. With the high temps and humidity, I felt my beds needed a little extra TLC.

My Monarda is starting to bloom. Honestly, I can stare at my Monarda all day and I am amazed at its beauty. I know a lot of people don't like it because of its invasiveness but so far, I like that it's a prolific grower and it hasn't become a pest in my garden whatsoever.

My Marshall's Delight and Raspberry Wine (pictured) are both lovely. The Jacob Cline are nice but they really droop. I have been able stake them and that helps. I believe I read somewhere that deadheading will help in reblooming. If that's true, where do you deadhead? Man, this is a pretty color, isn't it?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Firewitch dianthus

I planted cheddar pinks dianthus at the end of the season last year. They were just tiny little plants with no blooms. This year they have flourished. Planted in full sun. I added a little organic matter to the soil when I planted. Only thing I've noticed is that the wind can really wreak havoc on them and they have a tendancy to get flattened out when stray basketballs find their way into my garden.

At the end of June, I sheared them back and now I see little pink blooms slowly coming back. Now if we only got a good rain - then I think they would really go!

Welcome to my garden blog!

I am a recreational novice gardener which means I spend countless dollars and time in my garden to make it look like those pictures in Better Homes and Gardens. I have no formal training - what I know I learned from fellow garden freaks, books and experience. It's truly become my refuge from a long day at work or a break from the monotony of everyday life.

I enjoy reading about other people gardens and viewing their accomplishments. Maybe it's the camaraderie I feel when they're proud of something or the frustration they feel when something bombs. Believe me - I've been in both spots.
Anyway, I'll post photos, rantings, questions and general observations. Feel free to add your two cents. Who knows, we might both learn something!