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?