Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leafless Japanese Maple

I am concerned.

The lower half of the tree is leafing out.  The upper half ain't doin' squat.

Everything I've read says give it time.  I hope it makes it.

I don't want to have to dig this out and replace it now that all the other shrubs are in place.

I bought this tree last October at Lowe's for less than half price.  It was hurting then but once I planted it and watered it, it seemed to be okay.

We've had ridiculously huge amounts of snow in Connecticut this past winter, and I'm wondering if some these tips didn't freeze and mess up my tree.

No branches are split.  The main trunk is intact.  But it won't leaf out.

Can you imagine how ridiculous this thing would look if the top stayed bald and the bottom grew and spread?  It would look like those old Harley guys with no hair and ZZ Top beards.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dead or Alive

It was one of my favorite songs of the 80s.
You know the one.... you bring me right around baby, right around....
My little boy, now a grown man, used to love it, too.

We used to dance to it together.

The band was Dead or Alive.

This bumblebee is dead or alive.

Not positive.... but I'm pretty sure it was alive.

The following morning, it was gone.

And there was no carcass on the ground.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forest Rain or Rain Forest

Granted, nothing about Connecticut resembles a rain forest.

But we do have forests out here.

I'm surrounded by more than 5,000 acres of conservation land on one side and another 250 acres of forestry known as the Davis Farm.

Anytime we sit outdoors, our view is trees, trees, and more trees and all the wildlife that you would expect in such a setting.

An interesting thing happens out there.  It will not be raining anywhere, but if we listen, we will hear rain fall from within those trees.

Frank argued that what I was hearing was the movement and brushing of tree branches.  I disagreed.  I walked deep into those woods, deeply, while I heard that rain and I came out of those woods drenched to the bone.

I don't know what this is, but whatever it is, I look forward to hanging a double-wide hammock in the midst of those woods, swathing myself with buckets of Skin-So-Soft, and taking in that rain on those unbearably hot and humid evenings we know as July.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Search of the Jewel

We've made quite a bit of progress in this bed.  The weather has been cooperating these past two days and we managed to get all we had into the ground.

I like buying my plants as small as possible for two reasons:  they cost a lot less and they'll suffer less transplant shock when I plant them.  Frank likes buying plants as small as possible for one reason:  the hole he has to dig is a whole lot smaller.

Anything at one quart or under, I dig myself.  We get into that gallon stuff, it's Frank's baby.

I love, love, love lemon threadleaf cypress.  These guys grow eight to twelve feet high and I've positioned them behind that rock on purpose.  Can you imagine sitting on this deck and seeing this, at maturity?  No?  I can.

The Japanese maple I was concerned had been doomed is budding beautifully.  I see one or two branches that may need to be pruned back, but none that will impact its graceful, sweeping nature.

We are still at a loss for what to do in front of this magnificent stone.

I'm thinking irises but feel traitorous in having blooms in this garden.  The Royal Star Magnolia and the Rosebud Azaleas have flowers and that seems to be more than enough for this space.

But tall, graceful irises are tickling me at the brain stem.  Peonies, too.  Peonies and irises... will that work?

I haven't decided.  There is still time.

Until I do decide, we won't mulch this bed.

Weather permitting, we should be able to edge quite nicely, deeply, with emphasis and then mulch when everything has gone in.

With all the amazing, interesting, and unique foliage out there, I'm hoping for just the right jewel front and center.

All suggestions are welcome.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vegetable Garden Beds

I have never, ever, ever grown a vegetable garden.

I planted a tomato plant in 1998 and it produced ONE cherry tomato.  After two months.

I planted it in a whiskey barrel on a north-facing deck.  Well............. that ain't gonna work.

I became intimidated by the whole vegetable garden thing, but decided, this time around, to give it a shot.

I read and read and read and read.  Swore to stick to the rules.  Followed the advice of those pioneers in the world of vegetable gardening and agreed, promised, swore to do as they said.

We have three vegetable garden beds.  All raised, eight inches off the ground.  These beds are 11' x 3' because the experts said they should be.  Our total square footage is less than one hundred square feet (we come in at 99) because the experts said we need to stay at that number.

We will grow what we love:  tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, carrots, snow peas.

We probably have room for more goodies (onions, garlic, potatoes) but I don't trust my knowledge of space and how much I need.

We will plant a marigold plant at every corner of each bed.

We will visit daily and expunge weeds.

We will keep it as pretty as we can lest we suffer Robin's tongue and whip lashings.

Based on everything I've read, I think I'm too late for lettuces.  I love the lettuces:  spinach, green leaf, arugula, romaine, and Boston.

We have a spot for a cold frame but I think we need to wait until later in the season to get that going.

Our beds run north to south, as the experts recommended.  I'll be able to see the fruits of my labor from my office located in the bowels of my home (thank God for Bilco windows).

We have seven straight days of rain in our forecast.

Frank is strongly suggesting that we get something into the ground and make good use of those showers.

I will do that.

It's on my list.  Along with purchasing tomato cages (rumor has it that $2.50 Wal-Mart cages are a BAD, BAD choice), landscape fabric (not so sure I need that), and plastic little tab things where I can write what I've planted.

I just hope to get more than ONE tomato this year.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

We woke up this morning to a dense fog and by 10:00 AM the sun had burned it off and left us with a magnificent, magnificent day.

After countless days of clouds and rains, the sun was mightily welcome and well received.  I'm sure my fellow Connecticut gardeners can appreciate what I'm saying.

Frank and I spent eight hours in the gardens today raking, hoeing, cleaning, building, and of course, planting

With the exception of one flat of pachysandras, everything went in.  The only reason the last flat of pachysandras didn't go in is because I really didn't know where to put them.  I know, but I don't know.

I found three more "gardens" today, all shade, two rather tiny, one rather sizable, and working the larger shade garden was going to be the death of me.  I wrestled maple roots, I wrestled bramble, I wrestled rocks.

I found four or five hostas I had planted last year (rescued from Tony and Wendy's garden) shortly after we moved in, and a bleeding heart that was a throw-away at a nursery.  I also remember planting a trilium I picked up at Home Depot last September for a whopping dollar but darn if I could find it today.

I used pachysandra liberally, but left room to perhaps intersperse a few more hostas between trees, between rocks.

Interesting thing about pachysandra... you can spend two hours planting a truckload but when you step back and take a photo, you can't see them.

Here's hoping these babies multiply and fill in these areas.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It's a bit much already!

More rain and this won't ease up until 4:00 AM Easter Sunday according to the forecast.

We'll have an eight-hour break, and then at 1:00 PM it all begins again and will continue through Friday.

The ground will be so wet and soggy, I won't be able to work that soil for at least a week.  No telling when the cypress, azaleas, and junipers will finally be in the ground.

I knew I should have taken the day off yesterday.  It was cold and blustery but at least it was dry.

All my plants would have had such a good soaking today.

 I found Lemon Threadbrach Cypress at the supermarket for a better price than I was able to find at Lowe's or Home Depot so I grabbed three to plant in the Japanese garden.  When the rain stops!

The two dwarf Albert spruces I bought last winter to flank our breezeway are also coming out of their pots and making their way to this same garden.

The koi pond (above and right) is still not ready as the pump/filter system needs to be installed and I still have to find the right spitter (bronze frog would be great).

To the right flats of pachysandra are waiting to find their permanent home and the stone in the background is the focal point of a small shade garden we're creating with hostas, lily of the valley, bleeding hearts...

The huge rock in the foreground has crevices and little tufts of grass or weeds grow there with no trouble.  I'm wondering if I can't find something tiny to sprinkle in there that would grow.

At least the Royal Star magnolia got planted before the rains came.  The Japanese maple is barely starting to bud; I hope my $50 end-of-season find pulls through.

I feel like a little kid wanting to go outside and play not being able to.

I ache for a sunny day, a dry day, and no chores, work, phones, computers, hungry family so that I can just play in the dirt.

It's all I want.  Really.

Friday, April 22, 2011

To Pergola Or Not To Pergola

It depends on who you ask!

There it is, to your right, just about where that pile of dirt sits, measuring eight feet wide by fourteen feet long, and perpendicular to the existing deck in the foreground.

Frank is concerned that it will look like a blimp hanger in the middle of the earth.

I don't know what a blimp hanger in the middle of the earth looks like, but I know it doesn't look like a pergola.

I can't paint the picture adequately.  He's not getting it.

Add the other two obelisks, plant a small tree between the obelisks, and you create your "wall" around the deck.

Step down two steps (it is a two-tiered deck) and walk across to the pergola, covered in grapevines and climbing hydrangeas.   A wall of flowering shrubs will create a "wall" behind the deck, towards the woods, and you'll have a floor of pavers with plenty of room for two large tables and chairs, container gardens, chimes hanging from above, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

A live living room.  With all the amenities.  So what's the problem?

I'm still working on it but this may be a bigger challenge than I thought.

As for the "furniture" in the foreground, that's just a leftover shelf from something on top of two milk crates.  It's where I sit and drink my coffee every morning.

So much to do... the furniture is the least of my worries.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Yankee Gardener

I am a transplant.  I was not born in this country but it doesn't take long for an immigrant to become a Yankee.

One quick trip to the garden center to check the prices of containers and you are immediately Yankee-ized.

Frank, my husband the pack rat who can't throw much out (because he may need it someday) has had these five Ford aluminum mag wheels for THIRTY-FIVE years.  And of course, because they're in "good shape" and he "paid a lot for them" and "they're really cool", they've been moving from state to state, from house to house, for the better part of three decades.

I have finally found use for them.

They are my herb planters!

He has screened the bottom for me so that water drains out but the dirt stays in, and their ability to hold in heat, minimize moisture evaporation, and their contemporary look make it a smart Yankee choice.

The coffee table is NOT a Yankee choice.  It will be replaced someday.  Really!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I have been looking at these obelisks since the mid-nineties and never bought them when I lived at my last house.

Now, I have the perfect place for them, the perfect use for them, so I went and ordered three (8-foot) from Plow and Hearth.  I found a coupon offering me a 15% discount which basically gave me free shipping and then some.

The forums had mixed reviews, with the negative posts having more to do with putting the obelisks together than anything else.  Frank had no problem putting it together.  (The MBA finally came in handy.)

Now we just have to dig the hole to plunk these 12 inches into the ground and then plant whatever we want to climb upwards.

These babies look good!  They're weighty, well crafted, and feel solid.  I can't wait to get them in and create my "screen".  Now I'm searching for three small trees to plant between each obelisk to create a nice living wall between the deck and the vegetable garden.  Crape Myrtles would be great, but my zone (6a) is risky.  I will research this and find the right specimen.  In the meantime, the obelisks call for clematis and climbing roses... Nelly Moser with Don Juan, Jackmanii with Rose Dawn, and Sweet Autumn with America.

Of course, this can all change, but I do believe whatever the combination, we will have clematis intertwined with fragrant roses.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Bit Off-Topic

I know this has nothing to do with gardening, but I just wanted to share with the world that I am really, really glad we bought that expensive grill cover (on the floor).

It does a great job of keeping the deck dry when it's raining.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Good Morning, Sunshine!

Nice of you to make an appearance.

Yesterday, I was firmly believing that spring was going to pass us by.  Our high temperature was a whopping 47 degrees, completely overcast, and the threat of heavy rains loomed.

The rains came at around 7:00 PM and stayed through the night.

This morning, Mother Nature redeemed herself, and despite the wind, it actually felt like spring.

I got some work done in the Japanese garden, but seeing how this is new construction, I spend more time digging out rocks and decaying roots the contractors tilled back into the soil when they finished off the grade than I do gardening.

I'm not interested in having flowers in this space but I did get Rosebud Azaleas because they are "clean" when the blooms are spent and they are just downright pretty.  I'm not a fan of azaleas or rhododendrons or most of those things that I see way too many of in commercial landscapes.

The Bright Gold Threadleaf Cypress was a "must have" for its color, texture, and winter interest.

The gardens we saw in Thailand and Japan seemed to be very simple, with few varieties of shrubs, but plenty of plantings.  That's what we're looking to recreate here.  A five-foot deep koi pond (3,500 gallons) is embedded into the deck which will tie in nicely with the rest of the space.

I still don't know what I'm planting in front of and around the rock, and I'm not sure I know what I'm planting along the front of the deck.  I had originally thought to extend the juniper around the corner to the front of the deck, but I don't think I'm going to get enough sun there.

We'll be extending the juniper out and around the rock to create a sort of "fence" for that bed.  The deer don't like these and anything I can plant to keep them at bay is well worth the effort.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Found them.

Purchased 20.

Planted 10.

Need 40 more.

At least!

These are for My Father's Garden.

Friday, April 15, 2011


My first attempt at seeds will begin tomorrow.

I thought it best to play it safe and start with something that no one, in the history of the world, has ever killed.


Who knew there were so many varieties of sunflowers?  Or seeds in general, for that matter?  I now understand when others write of the "inexplicable need to collect more seeds even with the full knowledge that there is no room left to plant them".

I saw vegetables, flowers, herbs I've never even HEARD of.

But I went with the sunflowers, and with forget-me-nots for my father's garden.

According to the packages, these should germinate within a week or two.

I think the best solution for our backyard is to plant a meadow with tons and tons of perennials and flowers that reseed easily.  I'd rather mow that down once a year in October then enslave myself to that water hog we call the Lawn.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Computer Meltdown

███████████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ 44% DONE.
Install delayed....Please wait.
Installation failed.
404 error: Season not found. Season "Spring" cannot be located. The season you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable in Connecticut.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Lupinus perennis/Lupines (p)
More nuggets of gold are revealed as I pull back the leaves.  These lupines were part of a wildflower mix my grandson and daughter planted last August in that mass of wilderness I call the backyard.  We have such a hard time walking back there, as we don't know what's a weed and what's a keeper.

Lupines I can recognize and spot 100 miles away.

They remind me of my years in Minnesota.

They look like those popsicles I ate as a kid called "rockets".
Lupinus perennis/Lupines (p)
And they're outrageously expensive at the nursery.

If I could find these three baby plants, I know I'll find 50 more.  And I'll do everything I can to make sure they make it and have a proper home someday.

We have heavy rain coming tomorrow.  I'll cover these with leaves again, as I never can be sure that the pounding rains won't smash these things to smithereens.

Lupinus perennis/Lupines (p)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Backyard Challenge

This photo shows only HALF of the backyard!




What to do!

This is a big, big space.  Lawn is out of the question.  We're not getting any younger or any richer, so the labor and cost of growing, maintaining, and mowing a lawn is not anything we'll even entertain.

Meadows are hard to establish.  The more I read about them, the more I know this.  My grandson and my daughter made an attempt late last summer to scatter a plethora of seeds I purchased online from American Meadows and they did grow.  Now, things are growing in that spot but I can't tell if they're flowers or weeds or both.

The weeds are low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and great at self-propagation.  But do we really want a yard full of weeds?  Nope!

And to leave it alone, just a wasteland of dirt with rocks and twigs and rocks and branches is a bigger eyesore than a patch of dandelions and clover.

Frank and I sit out on that deck every single morning with our coffee and just stare at the abyss.  The muse has been slow in appearing.  But I do believe I have it figured it out.  Somewhat.

Treat the backyard as four large sections and create two shrub gardens and two perennial gardens with paths that will lead us out into the woods and the trails that Frank likes to run on (and which I fully intend to start plodding through).

Our leaching fields and septic system are back here, so trees are out of the question.  But a few good shrubs and a few good perennials should do the trick.

I'll wait a bit and see if the muse agrees, should she ever decide to surface.

I'm sure the deer can't wait!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bleeding Heart - Alba

I bought three bags of bleeding hearts at Home Depot the other day and this is what I got when I opened up the bags.  I couldn't tell which end was up and had no idea how to plant them.  The instructions on the package offered little help.

After navigating through the Internet, I found a site that actually answered the question.  Or so I thought.

The writer said to plant these things with the "pointy side down and make sure the crown was at ground level".


What crown?

Okay.  So I've planted them with pointy sides down and have left what I believe to be the crown at grade level.  I also put a rock next to each one of these suckers as I am absolutely sure that I will forget where these things are buried and will never find them again.

I can see why some people prefer to just buy bleeding hearts and peonies and hostas in a pot from a nursery and pay three times the price!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hello, Sedum!

It's pretty amazing what you can find when you rake back a few leaves.

Sedum!  Great little succulent, very low maintenance, and a great way to attract butterflies.

These came from a friend who didn't want them anymore.  He let me borrow a shovel and gave me a plastic container in which to carry these babies home.  They sat in this plastic container for almost a full year while the house was being built, and last fall, after the last of the workers had left, I planted them next to a giant rock.

I wasn't sure these would survive the winter but I'm happy to see that they've hung in there with me.

We will probably end up moving these to a better location as I'm not sure that these will work well with the Japanese theme we have in mind for this area.

The Japanese Maple (Tamukeyama) was picked up at Lowe's last year for $50.  That was almost half price, and it looked pretty grim when I found it in October.  I thought it was worth a shot and I see this morning that the tree is budding quite nicely.

This whole area looks pretty barren right now, but we have a very clear picture in our minds of how it will look once all the shrubs and plantings are in place.

Monday, April 4, 2011


 I don't plant spring bulbs in the fall.

I plant them in the spring.

I do this because our Octobers and Novembers are too cold and wet for me.

The ground is wet and cold, my hands get wet and cold, I get wet and cold, and that makes me cranky.

I buy my bulbs at half price around December.  And then I leave them in the garage or breezeway so that they'll get cold.

I plant them in the spring and I get blooms that very year.

I have 170 bulbs to plant this weekend:  120 Oxford Tulips, 60 Dutch Irises, and 10 Anemones.

The tulips are red and I'm not a red-bloom-in-the-garden person.  I find red (and hot pink/fuchsia) rather garish, but I think I can work with these and put them somewhere where they'll stand alone.  Friends have suggested I add yellow to beds of red flowers but that starts to feel like a McDonald's sign, so no.... I think I'll let them stand alone.

The Dutch Irises are a different matter.  Those I really like.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Bit of Green

We have endured a brutal winter in New England.  There were days in January and February where we actually believed we were in Chicago (my hometown and Frank's favorite city).

We finally found a spot of green on several Montauk Daisies we had planted last fall.  This gives us great hope that winter is finally over and that something will actually flower this year.

These daisies have been planted in what I call My Father's Garden.  It is a memorial garden and I am committed to making it as beautiful as the man for whom it is named.

In this garden, we have coral bells, hostas, astilbes, and a pond Frank can't stand the sight of.  So we are removing the pre-formed pond and using EPDM liner to make a more natural-looking pond.  To do this, I have to dig up all the astilbes and heucheras that were planted last fall, as Frank has a natural tendency to step on everything underfoot.

Bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots are also going into this garden, but not until the pond issue is resolved.

The purpose of the pond is to attract more and more dragonflies and to house tadpoles and frogs.

Should we fail, we'll have a great breeding spot for mosquitoes.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cold Frames

Frank found these windows in a dumpster almost two  years ago and brought them home when we were still renting an apartment.

Being true Yankees at heart, we thought we could recycle them and use them as "lids" in cold frames.

These have plenty of peeling paint that needs to be scraped off, but for the price, we couldn't resist.

I have no doubt that Frank will engineer a suitable box (or boxes) where we can get a jump start on the growing season.

The thought of homegrown Romaine, arugula, and spinach is enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Blank Slate

This is the house that we built last summer.

We have ALL the landscaping to do.

There is no lawn.

There are no beds.

There is just dirt and rocks and lots and lots of trees.

Beautiful trees - maples and oaks, and a few ferns.

We have birds and rabbits and deer and racooons.  Skunks, too.  I am sure if no one else likes our gardens, our friends in nature will.

Frank and I are not master gardeners.  We're not even good gardeners.  Frank grew asparagus and basil 25 years ago.  I am sure that knowledge will come in handy on this project.

Our house has more windows than I care to clean some days, and every window offers a view.  Our hope is to offer a pleasant view.

It is to that end that these two dummies set out to create a variety of outdoor rooms with plantings that are indigenous to our Zone 6 area, are relatively low-maintenance, and that are aesthetically pleasing.


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