Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spiffin' up the school

My neighbor and PTA member Allison has asked for my help at our school. Not with school pictures or helping at a teacher appreciation day, but with landscaping.

"You seem to have a green thumb," she said. "We could use your passion for gardening at our school."

The front of our school IS pretty dull. There are overgrown daylilies and mangled shrubs. I look at it everyday when I pick up my daughter and it lacks color and interest. I knew that it needed a facelift.

"I'm no expert, " I tell her. "But if you need some help, I'm your person!"

And so it began ...

What to do with this eyesore? Yeesh. We have a handful of areas like this. Allison thought some bulbs might look nice here. Can I plant bulbs in this space and spruce it up with some Karl Foerster and some other grasses? I have little or no experience with bulbs - do I have to plant annuals over them once they die down?

What makes this planting tricky is that there is no one to take care of these plants once they are planted. They are on their own to survive.

We were supposed to plant tomorrow but recent rains postponed it until next weekend. The school's Boy Scout troop and their dads were going to do the tough work - dig out all the daylilies and rose bushes.

This retaining wall planter is attractive but look at the junk that's in there. (What were they thinking?) Should we put some perennials in there to give it some "bones"? I can see some wave petunias or sweet potato vine looking nice - spilling over the sides. Maybe a few morning glories? What do you think? What would be a good foundation for that planter?

We put out a call for perennials and so far I've yielded black-eyed susans, lots of irises, sedum and some coneflower. I have some May Night salvia that I split that we could use here too. It's a VERY long and narrow area. My master gardener friend Kathy suggested we repeat patterns: black-eyed Susan, monarda, Salvia, coneflowers - repeat. Problem is, not sure we have enough to fill the area.

All of these flowers are donated - and there's good and bad that goes with that ! I've had offers of snow on the mountain (no way!) and lots of invasive ground cover stuff. I hate to be picky but do you really want plants that are going to wear out their welcome?

Please share your ideas!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dog days of summer

It's been too hot here. Even Sasha the Schnauzer thinks so.

I know I shouldn't complain. It's in the 80s almost every day and the sun is a warm beacon in the sky. I should be overjoyed since our summers are short here in North Dakota and this one was cooler than normal.

But it's September and like my friend Kit commented in her blog, I am "so over" summer. It's football season and I can't enjoy a Vikings game indoors when it's 80+ degrees outdoors and I should be doing something constructive in the garden!

My "M.O." the past few summers is to fill several planters at the end of the season - or when the small plant shops or big box stores start slashing prices on annuals. I made this row of planers on my back deck and spent next to nothing for a swath of color I can enjoy from my kitchen window. The added benefit is that these will still look good until the first frost where as my annuals that I planted in the first stages of spring look like they've had it.

This has been the summer of rudbeckia. My friend Kit suggested this "Indian Summer" so I tried it. The leaves are huge and a buttery yellow. Mine are quite short but Kit says they'll get very tall.

This was a last-minute purchase when I wanted to add a little color to a part-sun spot. This rudbeckia hirta "Sonora" had interesting coloring with the cocoa brown rim around the centers. Neat ....

I think these are part of the rudbeckia family right?! These gloriosa daisies are from Kerri at Colors of the Garden. I started this whole section from seed - they grew effortlessly and have been non-stop bloomers for weeks. Love them ...

This plant has me baffled because it looks so different from the typical rudeckia. The tag said rudbeckia fulgida. The diameter of the flower itself is no bigger than 3 inches across and they are on very long spindly stems. The petals are very dainty and look cool next to the tall stalks of my verbena. It'll be interesting to see what it'll look like next year.

The recent warm weather really gave my impatiens a boost. I have this trailing variety in the small rock garden by one of my favorite garden inspirations - St. Francis of Assisi.

In my next post, I'll offer my garden awards for the year. Prizes will go to to the best plants and worst plants in the garden this year. Stay tuned ....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Meeting my Idol

This is going to be a non-gardening related post. Please indulge me on this one ...

This past Sunday, my favorite American Idol, David Cook, had a show here in Fargo. Not only did I get to attend, but I scored backstage passes and got to talk to him and get my photo taken with him. It was so much fun and an experience I'll remember for a long, long time.

I loved his performances from Season 7 and have been following his successful solo career. He was a gentleman in person. We talked a little Chiefs football and he told me that I shared the same name as his mom. My sister-in-law told him we held him to the same esteem as Axl Rose! (A compliment to us - maybe not so much for him. Ha ha! :O) What a thrill for an old lady like me ...

Anyway, with back to school and some other shenanigans, there hasn't been a whole lot of gardening done at my house recently. I hope to post some photos soon.

Happy Labor Day everyone ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest garden question

My co-worker Sandy has a problem in her garden ...
Take a peek at this plant. She said the tag called it a "Tall Fall Daisy" and it's getting these weird brown stems - apparently they die off one at a time. As you can see from the photo - one is in full "die-mode" and there's one that's met its demise right next to it.
I have no idea what would cause it to do that. The other stems are seemingly happy but apparently they eventually falter too.

Any ideas what might be causing this?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nuts for nigella

I haven't visited all the latest posts from my dear friends in the blogging world for weeks.

My life has been filled with summer fun. A quick trip to the Twin Cities with my husband and girls and a girls weekend in Kansas City - what a great time! All the while, my garden has suffered slightly from neglect. I bribed the girls into watering for me during my KC trip. It worked for the first day but the rest of the time - not so much.

I came home and the tomato plant had pretty much died. The annuals needed a good drink too. But thankfully, some plants came to life and here they are.

The two photos above are my first try with nigella or Love in a Mist "Persian Violet", recommended by Connie at Notes from a Cottage Garden. Connie - I'm so glad you suggested these!!!!! First of all, the colors are stunning (and match all the different hues of purple and pink I have) and they are so carefree. I am surprised at how many people (and fellow gardeners around here) weren't familiar with this annual - but now they are after seeing these beauties. Thanks for the tip!
The story behind this plant - I received a $20 gift card to a local nursery from the lady whose chocolate lab ate my bush morning glory! So I picked up this double purple coneflower. It's a lot shorter than other coneflowers that I've grown - not sure if this will be different next year after its roots mature. Isn't it cool?

Kerri from Colors of the Garden - here is your blue larkspur!!!! These have really taken off and are very tall and sturdy. I love them. The gloriosa daisies are about ready to bloom and hopefully will be able to post some photos for next time. I started both of these from seeds this spring.

What is the proper way to collect seeds from annuals so that I can do this again next year?

Hope all is well in your gardens. It has been very dry and cool here. We could use a good soaking and some nice warm August days .... and I have some serious weeding to do!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making a case for the blues and brandy ....

Readers of this blog remember how much I gushed about the bush morning glory. This week it finally bloomed and it's more lovely than I remember.

I'm not a huge fan of blue. Maybe it's all those years of having to wear royal blue in high school that has turned me off. And it typically isn't a color I am drawn to in the garden either. But this nautical blue is a dazzling sight. In the sunlight it's a bright blue but on an overcast day, it almost has a purple hue.

I sowed these seeds in late May/early June. They were fast growers and were not high maintenance to get going. They do have that trailing habit so I can see why the packet said it would be good in a rock garden. Next year, I would like to spread these out a little more for that nautical flash in a couple of spots.

I planted this laurentia not because of the beauty of the plant (albeit it's pleasant enough) but because of the name "Beth's Blue." I couldn't resist. It actually is more purple and blue. It's been blooming non-stop for weeks.

You can see on this photo that I opted for black mulch in my front yard beds. So far, the experiment has worked well. The soft black of the mulch is very forgiving for gardeners like me that are constantly moving things around. It's true test will be a hard rain or a wind storm!

I had never grown an annual rudbekia until I saw "Cherry Brandy". I've tried to incorporate more red in the garden basically to appease my husband - a big fan of red flowers. Red can look garish so I add it sparingly and with much trepidation.

Cherry Brandy's petals are as soft as velvet and I love the burgundy - almost black cherry - hue. What a bummer that it's only an annual ... although on some sites it says it can be a perennial.

Has anyone else grown it? Can it reseed itself as a perennial?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wacky leaves

Every so often my coneflowers have what I call yellow leaf disease.

The White Swan coneflower continues to grow - you can see the buds - but the leaves get a sickly yellowish-green. I am baffled by this. I thought the conventional wisdom was that if your leaves were yellow your plants are getting too much water. Not so in my case. If anything - they probably don't get enough.

To further complicate this, weird brown spots appear on the leaves too. My purple coneflower did this two years ago and were so diseased toward the end of the season that I yanked them out and never put them in my garden again. But I love the White Swan and I'm bummed that this is happening to them.

Do you know what might be causing this? Bad soil? Not enough fertiziler?

On to fun things ....

Better Homes and Gardens gives their recommendations for plants to try each year. This year they suggested the double wave petunia. I'm not a big petunia fan but I was smitten by their photos of them and decided to give it a whirl. The picture above is the pink. They are in a planter mixed with blue double wave petunias, pink million bells and purple fountain grass. The double blooms are gorgeous and require next to nothing in maintenance. My kind of annual! I'd buy these again in a heartbeat.

Iris quiz: I was given this very tall iris last year. Can anyone tell me what kind it is? Love the colors - perfect for all the Minnesota Viking fans in our house!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crazy for cosmos

One of the best things I did was to try the Ladybird dwarf cosmos. I planted the seeds indoors in April and they are beginning to bloom and I love how dainty and pretty they are already.

The ladybird comes in creamy yellows and bright oranges - they stand only a foot tall with the ferny foliage of the regular cosmos.

I can't say enough about cosmos. The seeds are easy to start indoors, they transplant extremely well and they can take a lot of beatings from Mother Nature. We have had cold snaps, hard rain and unrelenting wind and those cosmos seedlings never flinched. I've moved them around to fill holes and they always bounce back. They are also a nice alternative to marigolds. And they look great next to purple.

I first tried the dwarf variety last year with the Sonata seed mix through Renee's Garden. I know a lot of people like cosmos but they're not crazy about their size. That's why these were so appealing to me.

The Niobe clematis has lived up to the "sleep, creep and leap" promise. After moving it three years ago to a more accommodating home on the eastside of the house, it has really taken off. Ironically, the Earnest Markham that I planted next to it never came back - neither did the Ken Donson. Hmmmmm..... clematis can be so fickle!

This was a new plant I had tried this year. The St. Johannis Anthemis is planted in full sun and is about 2 feet wide with nice airy yellow blooms. The plant tag showed orange flowers with yellow centers. These ended up to be quite different but I still like them. Not sure if they were mismarked or maybe with different soil they bloom differently? The best part of this plant - the bunnies haven't touched it ONCE!

I also wanted to try helichrysum (strawflower). At first I was disappointed that this turned out to be white but I have grown to like it. I have it next to my campunula Blue Clips and it's a striking combination. It's almost daisy-like.

Not sure if I'll post anything before the 4th - but here's hoping all of you have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mystery plant

I have no idea what this is. Help!
A friend was cleaning out her perennial garden last fall and gave this to me. It is already about 2 feet tall and thriving in its full sun location. The leaves are very jagged and large.
Does anybody have a guess?
Happy Birthday Annabel!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pinks, purples and bye-bye juniper

Recent rains have brought some new color into the garden. I was so excited to see what this centaurea montana was going to look like. So far there's just one bloom but there's more to come. This plant has really taken off and is probably one of the healthiest in the front yard right now.

This perennial geranium "Alpenglow" is front and center in a bed near the berm. It looks fantastic next to my purple salvia.

Not much different from the Alpenglow is my "Max Frei". Doesn't get as large as the Alpenglow but the color is nearly identical.

I posted this Firewitch dianthus in one of my first blog posts two years ago - and it continues to be one of the most popular pages on my blog. People obviously like their dianthus! Honestly - it's hard to beat the beauty of the plant and impossible to not notice when walking or driving by the house.

I attempted cleome from seed but it just didn't seem to take off as I had hoped, so I cheated. (I clearly admit I'm an impatient gardener.) I bought two from the flower shop and it's a striking companion plant with the salvia.

I bought this Northern Lights tufted hair grass recently. It really lights up the landscape with the golden hues. What I liked most is that it only needed part sun and that's where I had some holes to fill.

I committed a cardinal sin of gardening. I didn't read the package label to my California poppies very carefully and now I have an issue.
I did not thin the poppy sprouts when they started to grow. Now I have this huge patch and to try and thin them now might be tough. I tried pulling a few and the roots were quite deep already and I ended up yanking out about 6 healthy seedlings. Do you think I'll still get blooms? Any ideas?
Sayonara juniper!

My patient hubby took out that blasted tree last weekend. We tried cutting the top off first and it looked brutal. Finally, he said - "I never liked that damn tree anyway" and out it went.
I brought in some dirt and compost and that area is prime for growing. It gets a good 5 hours of sun each day. I put in some rudbekia, more columbine, monarda, profusion zinnias, a "Butter and Sugar" iris that was underperforming in another area and a new cushion spurge.

One of the first things I put in the old juniper space was another clematis (more good advice from Connie at Notes from a Cottage Garden). This Jackmanii Superba will crawl on the pole near the water spout.

More rain on the way today ....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One of my new favorite flowers

I've fallen in love with columbine. Not just any columbine - the Clementine variety.

I selected the columbine "Clementine Rose" on a whim last year from my favorite perennial stop - the Plant Ranch. There had to be 10-12 different columbines to choose from on the clearance sale and for some reason I choose this one. What a beauty she has turned out to be. It is so nice that I went back to the Plant Ranch this week and bought every Clementine variety I could find - blue, white, red and the salmon rose. I loved their compact shape and the petite blooms.

Right now, my garden lacks color. It hasn't helped that we've had a cold spring. We had rain over the weekend and that was a definite boost - now we just need warmth!

This is about the only other thing blooming - the chives. But they sure look good! I planted a lot of purple and pink this year. I wanted that soft look in my beds this year.

This past weekend my son graduated from high school. What a whirlwind week. Hubby and I worked hard to make the yard and garden as glorious as it could be for all of our open house guests. We thought it looked great and hopefully our friends and family did too. And because it was our open house - we didn't do anything drastic with that silly juniper yet!

Hopefully I'll have more things blooming in my next post ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

What to do with this juniper?

We planted this juniper shortly after we moved into our house in 2003.

I thought it would provide a sturdy anchor for the front landscape. But it is getting quite tall and too narrow for my liking. Recently, a blackbird created a nest in it and everytime I went out to garden, I'd have the mother bird flying around the tree, chirping - just to make sure I knew her eggs were inside.

Neither one of us huge fans of birds anyway, my husband and I carefully removed the nest and put it in another evergreen away from the house. The mother bird found it and I think she's just as content.
Can you cut the size of these down? Would I damage the tree by doing so? Would it look awkward? I'm clueless.

Maybe an arborvitae would have been better for that more round look. What's that cliche, "hindsight is 20/20"?

So some advice please - can you reshape it (or shave off some of the top) - or should I leave it as is? Is there a special technique? I don't want it to look as if Edward Scissorhands got a hold of it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to all

Today, I will celebrate Mother's Day with my family - mainly outside - working on projects that need our attention. The sun is shining and I can already feel it will be a nice and productive day. My hubby and our teenager have a busy day a head of them with my to-do list.

I think one of the cutest Mother's Day traditions is the school projects kids make. Flowers seem to be the central theme which would make me smile anyway. My oldest daughter decorated a terracotta pot with translucent beads and sparkles and filled it with snapdragons and pansies. That's a keeper.

Mommy's little helper, a first-grader, could hardly contain her excitement when she handed me a large envelope. In it was a poem, her handprints and a packet of seeds. She told me her teacher gave her three flower choices. She chose cosmos, she said, because she remembered I liked them because we had planted some together at home. What a sweet Mother's Day memory. That encapsulated what Mother's Day and the love of gardening is all about for me.

It made me think of my own mother. I'm sure today she is busy tending to that big garden in the sky and how glorious that must be. I posted a photo of impatiens today - one of her favorite flowers - in memory of her.

I read this quote recently and I think it's quite fitting. Happy Mother's Day to all of you. Enjoy your day with your moms, your kids or in the great outdoors.

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.

- Claudia Ghandi