Friday, October 10, 2008

So long for now ...

It's at about this time where I take a hiatus from my garden blog. The garden is nearly put to bed although there are some things that look as good now as they did back in July (especially the geraniums). North Dakota got its first taste of snow last night (thankfully on the western side of the state) so I know it's gotta be coming our way soon. Ugh ....

With the end of fall comes the beginning of our son's senior hockey season that we have been looking forward to a lot. Coupled with the girls' activities - it will be a busy five months. These are all good things - just very exhausting! I am also preparing myself for gallbladder surgery next week. The sooner the better as I've been quite miserable for some time .... it's no fun not being able to enjoy all the food I like to eat!

I have met lots of very cool people this year - it's been a treat. I hope to stop by your blogs throughout the winter and see what you are up to. Thanks to all who have been faithful readers - you make it all worthwhile. We'll connect again after the new year.

Best wishes,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Droopy sedums and the best zinnia seeds

It's been two weeks since I've written anything! The kids are back in school and my weeks have been busy with their activities. And as you might have guessed, gardening has taken a back seat and it shows. I spent a few hours yesterday cleaning things out -removing spent annuals and cutting back perennials. It was good to be out there again as I had missed it a great deal.

I read on one blog recently - I think it was the Patient Gardener who hails from England - and she described cutting back her sedum in June for a more compact attractive plant in the fall. Hmm ....

I have two kinds of sedum in my garden this year - one that looks very stately and upright in the front yard (above).

And one that looks messy with little to no shape in the back yard. Sedums have become somewhat of an annoyance to me. I mean, I like them but when they don't look good, it gives what I feel is a sloppy presence in the landscape. They haven't reached the disdain that I have for the Stellas(which I put in the compost pile this weekend). Sedums have just become so ordinary - in particular the Autumn Joy.

When I yanked out the daylily, I replaced it with this lovely coppery orange mum. I wonder if it'll make through a winter? I heard they are very tender that way.

The goldenrod has really burst out. These are new plants and they have been battered from the wind. Their stalks are almost at a 45 degree angle! Staking them has helped - until the next windstorm .... I sure do like them though.

I planted three types of zinnia seeds this year and I was very impressed with the seeds I purchased from Renee's Garden. My favorite was her Hot Crayon Mix which was a beautiful selection of scarlet reds, citrus orange and vibrant yellows. The best part of these flowers were the petals - they were huge. The envelope said they were Benary's Giant zinnias but I haven't had zinnias that have looked as good as these. What I also liked was that the packet of seeds offered a beautiful watercolor portrait of the plant with personally written descriptions - a nice touch.

Renee's also had the knee-high cosmos mix which was probably one of my best performers this summer. I started them indoors in March and only two survived but those two are still blooming in the garden - and it's the end of September! You can bet that I will be a repeat customer of hers.

For those of you reading this blog last year, my cousin Dolly from Kansas sent me some of my Grandma K's marigold seeds for next year - and yes, I am going to try them - despite the rabbits!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A fickle coreopsis

This "Sterntaler" tickseed coreopsis is really baffling to me.

I have watched it grow to nearly triple in size from when I bought it in late June and it has yet to bloom. The tag from the nursery says it blooms in early to midsummer in full sun. It gets five hours of sunlight a day so I don't think that's the problem. It appears healthy but its blooms are nowhere to be found. I was told that sometimes coreopsis doesn't bloom its first season at all and the next year it'll go nuts. My sister-in-law said she grows this variety as an annual because it won't make it through a winter.

As you can see, it's quite large. I've been wondering if I should just let it be, chuck it or maybe divide it to promote blooms for next year? Any ideas??!!?!?

When we moved in to our current house five years ago, I had picked out this "Angel's Blush" hydrangea. The landscapers planted it on the northside of our house - and we're talking very dense shade. The hydrangea never got taller than 2 feet and never bloomed. I was about ready to toss it in the garbage pile when it occured that maybe moving it would help (and this epiphany came four years later). Duh!

I nursed this hydrangea back to life this summer and by gosh, a pink bloom has appeared - in fact, several of them have. Isn't it pretty? In retrospect, I should have asked more questions when the landscapers came. Then again, I wasn't into gardening back then and probably wouldn't have asked the right questions anyway. So when they said it grows ok in shade - it didn't mean for "my kind" of shade. Only the homeowner knows what kind of sunlight exists in certain locations and it ultimately was my responsibility to speak up and say so. Lesson learned ...

This late-blooming ligularia looks great!

Canna update - they did bloom! At what point do you dig up the bulbs for next season? After the first frost?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thanks Susie ...

Susie from Digging in the Dirt has bestowed a special blogging award to me, and what can I say, I'm honored!

This whole blogging thing started last year on a whim but I have really enjoyed this endeavor. I have met some of the nicest and most knowledgeable gardeners. I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to comment or even stop by to browse. There are soooooooo many other garden blogs on the web and I am humbled that you happened to stop by mine in little 'ol North Dakota.

As the rules go, I need to nominate other blogs that are worthy of this esteemed award. Some people like to participate and others don't and that's ok. So here they are ....

Linda (Illinois) at Garden Girl. She has my dream job! :O)

Melanie (Long Island, New York) at Old Country Gardens. I learn something everytime I read her blog.

Connie (Idaho) at Notes from a Cottage Garden. A North Dakota girl at heart.

Kerri (upstate New York) at Colors of the Garden. She has some of the most beautiful flowers and photos.

Laurie (Amish Country, Pennsylvania) at From My Garden to Yours. We have similar garden styles and I like to see what's she doing.

Kris (Minneapolis) at Gardens by the Lake. Although Kris is on blog sabbatical, she's the one that got me interested in blogging in the first place. Comeback Kris!

Thanks again Susie!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Kit and caboodles in her garden

I was visiting with my co-worker Johnny about my love of gardening one day when he suggested, "You need to come over and talk to my wife, Kit - she loves to garden too."

So last weekend I took him up on his offer and went over to their home to admire their garden. We had the best time! We talked gardening, and dirt, and mulch and seeds and everything garden - we were all in heaven! They have transformed their twin home landscape into a caleidoscope of colorful perennials and annuals.

The goal of our meeting was to exchange monarda as I'm an avid collector of all colors. I took home a cutting of Kit's lavender-colored variety and I gave her a chunk of my "Raspberry Wine". We were like two kids trading baseball cards - both giddy to get their coveted favorite player - or plant in our case.

Kit is a lot like me in that we had no formal training in gardening or have taken any special classes. We both developed this affinity for gardening by getting our hands in the dirt. We are on a constant mission to beautify our surroundings. She also told me one of her favorite places to shop was the Plant Ranch too! (See earlier post "Flat Sale"). Indeed, Kit and I were kindred spirits.

Kit had some interesting blooms in garden - some of which were completely new to me that I wanted to share with you, my blogger friends.

Kit raved about her Brazilian Verbena (Verbena bonariensis). Of course, when she said verbena I'm thinking about the trailing plant you see in containers but this was completely different. She said this plant grows in even the worst soil, takes little space in the garden and has an airy feel that doesn't thwart the growth of other plants. I caught a bee on a verbena cluster above. Kit is giving me seeds for next summer. Yes!

This was my favorite of the day - a Bush Morning Glory. I had never seen a ground cover plant quite like it. Kit planted these by seed in June and it was a prolific clump of beautiful blue blooms with yellow eyes. It was fabulous. That's going on my wish list. Love, love, loved it.

Scabiosa or pincushion flower. I'm trying this next year.

Loved the combination of profusion zinnias (which looked WAY different than mine), tickseed and balloon flower. Here's another photo below of the profusion zinnias.

I thought profusions were always small?! They did such a nice job with the rock edging too.

This dainty white flower delphinium "Summer Morning" was front and center in the back bed. (I thought it was nicotiana at first glance).

This perennial lobelia was next to the delphinium as well. I had tried this plant before but the bunnies got it ... (sigh).

This was the oddest looking plant - a "cleome" or spider flower - which Johnny said looked like giant jellyfish. It was huge but a very cool accent in the garden.

Here's a glance at how everything works together....

I hope you enjoyed a look at Johnny and Kit's garden. It was a Sunday afternoon well spent.

Happy Birthday Sasha!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Memories of mom and fern peonies

My sister-in-law Peggy, a garden enthusiast in her own right, shared a special story with me recently. Many years ago, my mom had given her a fern leaf peony. This plant has followed my brother and his wife through a handful of moves over the years and it now thrives in their Minnesota garden. I was touched that one plant could mean so much to them and what a wonderful memory and tribute to my mom who died in 1992.

If you've been on this blog before, perhaps you've read some of my melancholy posts on my mom. I wish she could have seen and enjoyed this garden hobby with me. I was only 25 at the time of her death - still wallowing in apartment living - years away from cultivating any sort of green thumb at my own home. At that time, I probably couldn't have even told you what a peony looked like!

I now have the opportunity to cherish a piece of mom's garden history. Peggy asked if I wanted to share this fern peony (pictured above). She felt I should have have something of mom's - garden-related naturally. I am honored. Problem is, neither of us know how to split a fern peony. And because of the precious nature of this plant, neither one of us want to botch this job and leave us both plantless ....

Does anyone have any experience doing this and can offer us some advice?

Here's a few garden photos from Peggy ... Oh, there's one four-legged friend on here too.

Dwarf Garden Phlox "Pink Flame"

"Baby Sun" Coreopsis

Winston watching over the garden.

Thanks for sharing Peggy ... let's get this fern peony thing done!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cheap labor

Raising a teenager is one of the hardest jobs you'll ever have. And whoever said that raising teenage boys was easier than raising teenage girls has not lived in our house.

Aforementioned teenager got himself in a little hot water recently. Aside from the normal punishment of no cell phone (gasp!) and no keys to his truck, his father thought of a more creative way to earn back privileges.

"You have some garden stuff to do outside?" he asked me. "If so, put him to work."

It was music to my ears.

On a really hot sunny day, aforementioned teenager dug out the area I was hoping to have tilled this fall. He did a nice job and I watched his work with the eye of a disapproving mom and a landscape forman.

"You missed this spot over here!"

"Watch out for that underground sprinkler head! - Good grief!"

Once his landscape work was completed, we went to the city landfill where I had him fill several buckets of beautiful black compost to add to my new area. My husband and I edged it with field rock that the previous homeowners had around the house. My new garden bed was complete and his detention was served. The photo above looks pretty sparse but next year, it'll be lovely.

I moved my foxglove over to the new area and surprisingly, I have blooms already. Aren't they cool?

I took this gloriosa daisy home from the nursery this week and planted it in the new bed.

Black-eyed susan were late this year but boy, were they worth the wait.

Even the "Arizona Sun" gaillardia bloomed this year for me after an abysmal start. I hope they survive the winter.

Next blog installment ... photos from guest gardens!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Taste test in the garden

I found this fun garden quiz from the blog Cold Climate Gardening - actually dubbed a "taste test." Copy this list into your own blog and highlight your own choices in bold. I did vary this slightly from the original - basically to accommodate my gardening style ...

1. Lilies: oriental or asiatic?

2. No-till or till? We still prefer to use a shovel. Let's clarify that ... MY HUSBAND prefers to still use a shovel.

3. Bare hands or garden gloves? (I won't be hired to do any Sally Hansen ads, that's for sure)

4. Garden tchotchkes, no or yes? (I highlighted both as I do have small things in my garden to add interest: child's tricycle, small statue, bird feeder.... But if you're thinking gnomes, Disney characters or a God-awful, bloomer-showing cutout of a lady bent over weeding - than NO!

5. Purple coneflowers or black-eyed susans?

6. Do you normally plant in odd numbers - yes or no

7. Stella D' Oro daylilies - love 'em or hate 'em (sorry!)

8. Petunias: Of course or they have their place just not in my garden

9. Bachelor buttons or zinnias?

10. Impatiens: double or single?

11. Do you plant marigolds? Yes or no? (and several varieties)

12. Arborvitae or juniper?

13. What do you like to use for edging in your garden? Right now, it's field rock. Looks very cool.

14. Asters or mums?

15. Least favorite garden chore: Weeding or watering

16. Morning glory or clematis?

17. Favorite trailing plant? Sweet potato vine

19. Orange or pink?

18. Best gardening advice: Compost!

19. Barberry bushes or spireas?

20. Garden bed shapes: formal or informal?

21. Do you listen to music when you garden? Yes or No

22. Least favorite garden critter: rabbits

23. Sedum: dried flowerheads standing over the winter or cut down in the fall?

24. The flower that always makes me smile: Cosmos

25. Garden stroll time: dusk or dawn? (But really, is there EVER a bad time?)

Make your own taste known! Append! Amend! Object! Applaud!

That's the fun part ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Protecting her turf

I had to share this photo. This brave little squirrel found its way near the garden this morning - undaunted by the fact that a wiry Schnauzer was watching its every move. Sasha, tied up on her long rope so that she can roam the yard, was quite intrigued by this little guy. At one time, rubbing noses with it.

Annaboo took this snapshot.

The bliss didn't last long - the squirrel got a little too close for Sasha's liking and they tussled for a little bit. Ego bruised and with a few scrapes, the squirrel found its way back to the wooded area in search of a new place to eat. Horrified by their dog's behavior, my girls were saddened that Sasha didn't treat the squirrel nicer. It was a quick lesson for them on the natural instincts of dogs - in particular Schnauzers and the terrier breed. You just can't fight nature ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mulch a do about nothing

Black mulch with tickseed.

Good friends of ours decided they want to landscape in front of their lake cabin. I brought down some cuttings from my garden and some sun-friendly perennials. I was all set to plant.

To my surprise, they had laid down black mulch in the bed and around the shrubs they had already planted. Black mulch? Hmm.....

"The guy at the nursery told me I would really like it. It camouflages the dirt when you start planting - especially if you move things around a lot," my friend explained.

So I put the black mulch to the test. And you know what, I liked it. Once you started mixing in the plants with the dirt and the mulch - it did seemingly blend well together.

I have a love/hate relationship with mulch. I try different mulches like Lindsay Lohan tries boxed hair color. I like how mulch looks right when you put it down. Everything is neat, organized. Then I get bored and I move something around and all of a sudden, I have mulch mixed in with clumps of clay-like soil. Not very appealing.

For a few years, I tried cocoa bean hulls. The front of our house smelled like a giant bottle of Nesquik. It drove my husband nuts. Whatever ... (!)

This was my feeble attempt at cypress mulch - gross. I took it all out this year. Plus I didn't have edging on this bed and it was messy and wind-blown all the time.

For some reason, I didn't mulch this year and the soil and plants look particularly parched. Although a lack of rain would have something to do with that too.

Do you mulch in your gardens?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mid-summer questions

We've been enjoying the sunny warm days we've been having at the lake. There's been a few issues popping up in the garden and wondering if you bloggers can tell me what you would do or have done in similar situations.

OK, I'll share the fun stuff first - the white liatris is here!

I love these Q-tip shaped flowers. My girls always comment about how cool they look in the garden.

Combination of Sedona and Rainbow Volcano coleus. I initially liked the orange but a lot of the leaves faded fast. I prefer the red, actually.

I posted earlier on this blog about messing up at the nursery and buying a "Stargazer" oriental lily instead of an asiatic. Well, this is actually what I got when it bloomed. It looks nothing like a Stargazer. Does anybody know what I have here? Jury is still out on whether I like it or not. It probably would look really nice with purple.

This is the area that I recently "created" it was full of overgrown (and old) spireas that did nothing to the landscape. It's a mostly shade spot but gets more sun toward the Annabelle's at the end. I put a lot of my flat sale plants here - albeit temporarily.

On to the problem areas ...

This silvermound should be huge - at least twice this size and by this same time last summer, I had already sheared it back. It looks as it has little beads at the tip of its leaves - almost as if the growth was stunted somehow. Symmetrically, it fits into my garden but I know it's not completely right.

This container used to burst with color and now, my million bells have nearly disappeared. Too much heat? Too much water or fertilizer? Even the Marguerite daisies are a fraction of their blooms (and size). Thankfully, the sweet potato vine is happy or else this really would be an eye-sore.

How do you tidy up daylilies? Do you clip the pods after blooming? Will they come back? These Stella D' Oros were here when we moved in and I've divided them at least three times in the last five years because they get so big. I know the Renegade Gardener thinks these are the most overrated plant out there. I tend to agree. They are grossly overused in commercial and residential landscapes.

Happy Birthday Peggy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flat sale

My neighborhood "white hoop" shop "The Plant Ranch" is closing up for the summer. Along side of their tent was the greeting "Flat Sale - $8.00". I had to stop in.

The Plant Ranch is famous for the "99 cent perennial". Of course, with the price of gas and the general state of economy, the 99 cent perennial soon became the $1.29 this year - still a good bargain. They have hundreds of perennials - grown locally in little Pekin, North Dakota. The selection is superb - if you're a patient gardener and can live with a small cutting of something. Me? I'm impatient by nature but I decided that this is a great time to try some new things - since I'll have a new part-sun area come fall.

I was surprised at the wide selection this late in the year and how good their stock looked. I had 10 minutes to get home so I did a quick shop and here's what I took home:

Grasses: Korean Feather Reed Grass, Blue Hair Grass, New Zealand Wind Grass and, I couldn't help myself, "Heavy Metal" Switchgrass. Rock on dude! I've been Googling photos all night of these. I'm especially excited for the Korean Feather Reed Grass.

Perennials: I am finally trying a "Camelot Lavender" foxglove, an "Alba" Armeria, St. Johannis Anthemis (which came up as chamomile online), Campanula "Blue Clips", Gayfeather and Eupatorium "Chocolate" - which looked really cool online. It has purpley chocolate leaves with small white flowers. Has anybody grown this?

I also picked up a few New Guinea impatiens to bright up a shady spot. All this, ladies and gentlemen, cost me a whopping $8.00. Now that's what I call a good day.

Here's a few favorites right now in the garden ...

Gazania Tiger Mix - I wish these stayed open all day long instead of just when the sun was out!

Profusion white zinnias.

"White Swan" coneflowers - always a favorite.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another open canvas ...

My co-worker Jane and I went on our annual garden tour of homes this week. I wish I took pictures of this one home - it was definitely worth sharing in the blogworld and a source of inspiration. Ponds were a very common theme at many homes. To me, it's a lot of work and most of them had live fish in them. Yuck ... I'm terrified of fish (love to eat 'em, just don't ask me to touch or look at them). That story is worth a blog entry on its own ... but let's just stick to flowers!

When I got home that day, I realized just how lame my landscape really is! :o( Ok, maybe that's too harsh - I'm learning to do the right things but I find my growing space and circumstances are a little trickier than the gardens that I was attracted to. Most were smaller and completely fenced in with little chance of garden predators. Plus, I think most of the people were close to or already retired and can devote countless hours to development, hard labor and TLC. I'm green with envy ...

This is the view from my deck each morning. Our property extends past the evergreens onto a major county highway. We are also next to a river so I get all kinds of wildlife walking through the backyard. Our development covenent also prohibits fencing so to try and block that off is a mute point. I've simplified this area and have kept most of the garden space near the deck where the animals are less likely to venture. So far, so good this year!

Jane suggested that I develop another area off the deck - still far away from the back but yet close enough to me to enjoy. The area is sloped - which means I'll have to add a lot of black dirt to level it off. This partial-fence area (I don't know how it got past the developer) sits in partial-shade. Jane offered the services of her wonderful husband and his tiller and would be willing to dig this up for me for fall transplanting. Linda, from Garden Girl, do you make house calls to North Dakota?!

Here's what else is going on this week ...

My ligularia "Little Rocket" is flourishing in the front garden. Wow - I love these. I also have the "Othello" but that doesn't show any blooms - lots of leaf activity though. I hope that's not a bad sign. This one is planted in partial sun - but mostly shade and it seems to suit it perfectly. I have another in the back that gets more sun and I see it looks a little more stressed. Put that one down on the list of things to move this fall.

I purchased this hummelo betony on the clearance sale at one nursery last fall. I knew nothing about the plant and it offered no blooms last season. I'm enjoying what it's doing now. It's planted next to my "Helen von Stein" lambs ear and rudebekia.

The coral reef monarda are begging to show their color. I planted this one next to the "Cherry" profusion zinnias which form a nice burst of pink.

New things I've put in the ground this week from the "clearance rack":

  • "Arizona Sun" Gaillardia - I gotta try this one more time!

  • False indigo

  • "Baby Gold" Goldenrod

Need to go ... I gotta yank out some unsightly spireas.