Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hotter than you know ...

It was terribly hot today - when I drove home the bank temperature read 93 degrees. What happened to our beautiful 75 degree days.

I gave the garden a good soaking when I got home as my newly planted annuals looked a little stressed. Some things in my garden are a good three weeks behind with the late spring we had. I knew that some of my clematis didn't come back. But what I forgot is that I transplanted a Niobe late in the season last year that was beset with all kinds of problems ranging from rabbits to lack of sun. Imagine my surprise when I saw this lovely crimson bloom. It obviously likes its new home as their are several blossoms waiting to greet me within the next few days.

When we moved into our house nearly five years ago, my flower bed in the backyard was an odd-shaped kidney bean. It lacked edging and over the years, the planting area has gotten smaller as grass was starting to fill. Nothing grew well there under the big cherry blossom tree. It seems as if the tree had zapped all the nutrients from the soil and my flowers were doomed for a life of inadequacy.

Not the most aesthetically pleasing piece of grass right now ....

I said to heck with it and I planted grass seed and my husband and I created an oval-shaped bed with brick pavers. It's amazing how finished your garden space can look just with a few well placed bricks.

Happy Birthday Annaboo.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My annual rant

At one time I was a perennial prude.

I used to think that a true gardener only planted perennials and by my planting only perennials, I would somehow be awarded the golden green thumb. I have a friend, dare I say, is still that way. "Annuals are so boring," is what I heard and I believed her. I wanted to be that sophisticated gardener that stayed away from the garden stalwarts of petunias, marigolds, impatiens and geraniums. I used to think they had no place in my garden.

Well, let's just say I have embraced my inner annual.

I admire my sister-in-law's gardening philosophy. Be bold! She isn't afraid to plop an annual wherever she darn well pleases. She was blessed to buy a house that had beautiful existing perennial beds. But she uses splashes of color to brighten vacant spots. A fuscia here - a million bells here - a profusion zinnia there. It's just enough color to make her beds interesting and colorful and that's what I'm learning to do too.

Let's face it, perennials gardens can be kind of bland between blooming periods and without annuals here and there, they can get kind of "green." That's not a bad thing it's just, well, kind of boring.

So, in comes the annuals. Here's what I've been planting:

Heliotrope - great purple blooms. Some say they have a vanilla scent but I'm not smelling it yet. Looks great with my pink dianthus.

Bacopa (Snowstorm Giant Snowflake) - the best trailer I have planted in years. Always blooming and needs very little care. This beats an ivy any day.
Gazania - I have the Tiger Mix variety with blooms of yellow, orange and white stripes. I have it in my "all-orange" planter along side signet marigolds and a trailing peach million bells.
Cuphea - I saw a webcast where they put together colorful planters and they used this red accent plant. I bought one on a whim. Jury is still out though ...

I love what I'm seeing with this combination of Zinfandel Oxalis, osteospermums and orange profusion zinnias. The Zinfandel has yellow blooms that come up when the sun is out - very pretty.

My favorite planter - I love the red and pink together.

Signet marigolds in "Lemon Gem" - they really smell like lemons!

I'm embarrased to say that I finally tried these for the FIRST TIME:

Coleus (Sedona) - I feel in love with the orange. I first made the mistake of planting it in full sun where it took a beating. I moved it to the the northside and added some small red coleus to the planter. It has bounced back nicely.

Baby's Breath - What a novice, I know! And I thought I could use it only in the dried variety. This is beautiful!

Wax begonias - Gasp! I've never been attracted to begonias but I thought I'd try one in a mixed planter.

Perennial wisdom

I don't want to disrespect the perennials - they are the staples to every garden and I do love them. I have two favorites so far in this growing season.

My May Night Salvia has never looked better. In fact, I have people that stop in the middle of the street and stare at it. One lady knocked on my door and asked me for a leaf to bring in to a nursery to find out what it was. That's never happened before to ME. I'm usually the one knocking on someone's door!

This lady's mantle has been a pleasant surprise. I bought this late in the season last year when it only had about two leaves and it was on its last leg. I have it in mostly shade and it's about ready to show its chartreuse blooms. I liked it so much that I bought one for a small area in the backyard that I recently dug up and am making a small "shade sanctuary". Photos of that to come ...

My canna experiment is working!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wild and Windy Night

What is with the weather lately? Tornadoes, floods, excessive heat ....

Here in North Dakota, we've been able to escape the wrath of Mother Nature but we got a dose of her fury last night.

I was alone with all the kids when signs flashed across the TV about tornado warnings. I've been fascinated with thunderstorms and ominous weather since I was kid and my curiosity got the best of me. I grabbed my oldest daughter ("Annaboo") and we walked outside to see the impending storm.

The sky was a combination of blue, black and gray with swirling clouds abound. We were in awe - but only for a minute as within seconds the wind blew and trees were bent. We ran back home only to realize we had left Sasha outside on her chain and Mommy's little helper was playing in the yard with friends. I was terrified that a tornado was within minutes of touching down.

The momma bear in me kicked in.

"Grab Sasha and get in the basement with your brother," I yelled. I grabbed Mommy's little helper from outside and Annaboo, by this time, had Sasha in her arms and was wrestling with the screen door to get in the house.

Envision Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz sans the flying cows and witches flying around on broomsticks.

The lights flickered and the wind howled as we waited out the storm in the basement. My teenage son was home (atypical for a Saturday night) and I was relieved that I had all my children in the house. The neighbors were gone and had called to tell us that their two young children were alone with a frightened babysitter. They asked us if we could bring them over to our house for safety. Through gale-force winds, my son volunteered to get them and he brought them to our house where we sat around and listened to the radio and ate Goldfish. I was very proud of him and his initiative to be the "man in the house" last night. I think the kids were more calm than me!

The storm blew past Fargo and we were fortunate that no funnel clouds touched down near us.

I took a tour of the house and garden and noticed little damage despite reports of 50-60 mph winds. The basketball hoop - a heavy beast to begin with - was moved about 10 feet and one of our flood lights on the house was blown out and dangling by a thread. And the gardens .... they were unscathed except for lots of branches and leaves mixed in with foliage and blooms.

I hope others were as lucky as us.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Good morning Sunshine

It's a Saturday morning and Sasha the Schnauzer was up early - somewhere around 5:20 a.m. It's the weekend - I wanted to sleep in!

But it was not meant to be. The pup needed to go outside and I obliged. I put on my daily pot of coffee and headed outside and was greeted by this beautiful "Butterfly" Marguerite Daisy (I misidentified it earlier as a osteospermum - they look so much alike!. I had to share ...
Last year I purchased the "Lemon Symphony" but I have to say, I prefer the buttery yellow of "Butterly". I mixed in red and fuschia million bells and sweet potato vine -a welcome display of color by my front door.

I love this low-growing catmint, "Little Titch". Never mind the grass clippings in the photo. Little Titch is always an early bloomer and will bloom for most of the summer. The best part of about this Little Titch is that it doesn't overtake its space - unlike the Walkers Low. Mine is beautiful right now but it is overshadowing my cranesbill geranium that is finally doing something this year.

Ever have two exact same kinds of flowers - planted right next to each other - same soil, same light, same moisture, etc... And one thrives and one doesn't? That's happening with my White Swan coneflowers. One looks great - and the other looks like an overgrown weed. I don't get it!
Do you think it'll just catch up or do perennials just regress and never really bounce back?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yew got to be kiddin' me?

What do you do with a yew that has winter burn?

I tried to reshape it, trim its brown branches and now I have what looks like a Charlie Brown shrub - misshapen and forlorn. Ugh!!!!

Anybody have a remedy for this sad shrub? You know it just wouldn't be Beth's garden if something didn't go down the toilet at some point or another ...

Speaking of going down the toilet, I did my morning walk around and noticed the rabbits chewed four marigolds plants and a monarda which left a mangled mess. They've eaten my marigolds before - but monarda! Bee balm was supposed to be indestructible!

On a happier note, I finally did what I've been reading about for the last few years - I brought in compost and I can honestly say the perennials in the front of my house have never looked better. The city was offering free compost to those brave souls ready to get blisters and backaches from shoveling it into empty containers. So one Saturday morning, I grabbed Mommy's little helper and headed to the landfill. We filled four recycling tubs full of beautiful black compost. I liberally spread it around all my flowers and worked it into the soil and have watched my perennials take off. Recent rains have helped even more.

Why didn't I do this years ago?