Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning From The Best

Catherine at A Gardener in Progress has a beautiful, beautiful pond.  You can (and should) see photos here.

I have a pond, too, in My Father's Garden.

Ain't nothing beautiful about it.

As I've said before, the edges have been driving me bonkers.  Our is a pre-formed pond that I inherited years ago and never had the heart to throw out.  My grandkids aren't buying into the "kiddie pool" idea so I'm kind of stuck with it.

We buried it in the ground (when the contractors were still here to dig a hole and let me tell ya... they use that bucket thing and it's done in fifteen seconds) and it has never looked right since.

Yesterday, darling Frank (the terms of endearment escalate depending on how much grunt work he's done) walked our woods and found flat rocks.

He lined the pond and I do think it looks so much better.

Before the rocks were placed
Frank also created "steps" inside the pond to give the salamanders and other creatures a way out.

I doubt I'll ever have a Catherine Pond, but you never know.  In a few years, as the plants grow, I may find myself drooling over MY pond as much as I do over hers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Harvest - My First Ever!!!

Daphne has this thing going called Harvest Monday which I never thought I'd participate in until November because it seems all my vegetables are just taking their sweet ol' time understanding that their function to is produce produce.

Anyway, I walked my garden this morning and saw my CHIVES!  Granted, these are pass-alongs but I still think they count.

Daphne goes all out with this stuff, weighing things, calculating losses and profits, as she's trying to figure out if she has the $64 tomato.

Me?  I just plant, pull, and eat.

Happy Harvest Day to all you vegetable growers.  Go stop in to see Daphne.  She's got some beauties to show off!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Little Visible Progress

 Another day of planting the pass-alongs but now I'm almost done.  All that's left are 100 pachysandras or so and I'd have kept at it until I was done except that the the edge of the woods is buggy as all get out this time of day.  I was attacked by mosquitoes and deer ticks and thorny branches and threw the gloves in.

This is a photo of the only May Apple that understands it's an upright plant.

The rest are confused and behaving like fuchsias.

I think I need to trim the day lilies to an inch or two as its leaves are also languid and pathetic looking.

I was set to plant my four dogwood trees, but again, the critters at the edge of the woods are sitting there waiting with fork and knife in hand.

I found three drowned salamanders in my pond and need to get a stick in it to give them a way to crawl out.  The dragon fly nymphs will need this as well.

I found a toad and thought it was a frog.  When I put it in the pond, I quickly learned that toads can't swim worth a crap.  I rescued it and returned it to Mosquitoville.

I have four saucers filled with sprouted sunflowers seeds but can't muster up what's necessary to go plant those 300 seeds.

I look around me and wish I had bought a double-wide mobile home with a whiskey barrel for a garden.

This all seemed like a good idea last year.

Not so sure anymore.

But as Laurrie says, you just gotta hang in there.

On a more positive note, the Japanese Maple that I decapitated two weeks ago is showing signs of new growth.  If you remember, the thing was half dead and I didn't know what to do about it.  I pruned every single branch that didn't pass the "scratch my bark to see if I'm green" test and ended up with a pretty lopsided tree.  I think it will be fine, and if you look at it from a certain angle and don't shift your eyes one bit, you can't tell this thing has been to hell and back.

Tomorrow will be more of the same although I will get all these seeds planted, my Pieris Japonica into the ground, dead head my containers, and plant those six shrubs sitting out there into the Japanese Garden.

Frank goes on travel for at least a week next Tuesday, which will give me time to figure out what to do with all these rocks we have out here.

I'm thinking a dry river bed in the Japanese Garden (I'm always thinking of cool stuff that requires Frank's muscle power) and I have a pretty good idea of where I want it and how I want it to curve, but I don't know if it's practical to do now that so many plants are in.

If not a dry river bed, then something.  These rocks are too gorgeous to not use.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

There are days I'm just not loving this whole gardening thing.

Today was one of those days.

I had to show houses this morning and was back home by 1:00 PM.  I worked outdoors until 6:30 PM.

You would think after five and a half hours, I'd see a difference.


I got the front deck containers done and then it was just hours and hours of planting pass-alongs that really look like crap, all floppy and what not.  Day lilies, pachysandra, lilies of the valley, may apples... all in their permanent beds but not looking so keen.

I'll post photos of those beds when I feel they're somewhat worthy.

I found the containers at Christmas Tree Shop and they're made of something called Fireclay whatever.  Of course, they're made in China, and I hope the Chinese understand that I don't want to haul these things into the garage in the winter.  My understanding is that they won't crack.  We'll see.  If what they did with drywall is an indication of what's to come, I'll be replacing these next spring, as I absolutely will not move them.

I'm not a big annuals/container person but I understand that they have their place in the garden.  This was just all about color and I didn't want to spend more than $50 for the three planters.

I came in at $44 and change.

In the process of messing around outdoors today, I saw a bloom on the Knock Out Rose in My Father's Garden.  That brought a smile to my face, at least for a minute.

The next two days are all about chores:  weeding, raking, cleaning, tilling.

I'm exhausted.

And I keep telling myself.... it will all pay off in the end.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Generator Garden - Phase I

The powers that be sent beautiful rays into my world today and I hurried to plant all of my "gifts" into the Generator Garden which is really just a holding bed right now.

Five peonies, four dogwoods (two dying, one hurting, and one thriving although ALL had green wood when I did the "scratch me to see if I'm dead" test), countless Autumn Joy sedums, creeping sedums, irises, chives, and maybe a few other things I can't remember right now (because I've had a few glasses of wine and it's late).

After I planted everything and watered it well (amazing how quickly one can plant a garden when nothing matters except to get it into the ground), Frank and I headed out to Old Lyme to pick up pachysandras and day lilies and then to Montville for May Apples, Lilies of the Valley, and Asiatic Lilies (not my favorite but I'll make it work).

This will be a ridiculously busy weekend in the garden.  Edging, mulching, container gardens, and clearing.  I can't think of a better way to spend my time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The First of Three New Gardens - The Generator Garden

It started out like this:

Frank, where's the rake?  You didn't put it back where it belongs.
Sorry, Wendy.  Check around the other side of the garage.

And there it all went to hell in a hand basket.

The Generator Garden - Right
The Generator Garden - Center
I don't know why I haven't walked around my entire house.  Well, actually, maybe I do know.  I knew all the trash was going somewhere and I wanted to continue to live in denial and pretend it wasn't happening "over there".

As a result, I have found three new gardens who have yet to learn that they are gardens.

The first one is my Generator Garden.  Hey!  I've got a generator there and I don't know what else to call it.  This garden I have seen only up to the compost and digester bins.  (For those of you who don't know what a digester is, you can learn about it here.  I have the Green Cone and I love it.)

The Generator Garden - Left
It turns out the soil is quite lovely here.  Very loose and dark and rich.  Look at how happy the weeds are in this spot.

As I turned the corner I saw the offspring of the Abyss, and then halfway down the strip, I found what will no doubt be My Secret Garden.  The Secret Garden is definitely a few years out (two to three) as Frank will need to terrace this slope or something so that I can get down there without killing myself.  (More about these later.)

Right now, I'm just going to use the Generator Garden as a holding bed for the pass-alongs I've received until I figure out what to do with them.

Unlike most gardeners, I don't buy a single plant unless I know exactly where it's going to go.  But when someone GIVES me plants, I don't refuse just because they're going to be temporarily homeless. I plant them somewhere out of the way until I can find a good home for them.

What this will ultimately become is not yet clear in my mind, but the fact that I get full sun here and that I have the leaching benefits of the compost bin and digester lead me to think it will be vegetables.

My compost bin is making me nuts.  I have itty bitty gross worms (not earthworms) at the bottom and the whole thing needs to be turned over.  I'll be adding a second compost bin to my collection of Bins With Rotting Food soon enough as I don't think the bin I have now will be ready for another year.

Speaking of earthworms, I have not seen ONE SINGLE EARTHWORM in all the digging I've done.

Building a house is disruptive to the ecosystem.

I hope the worms will forgive me and come back soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Father's Garden

Papi, you left us a year ago today, and as you know from my daily chats with you, this process is difficult if not horrific.

There are days I believe we will learn to live with this loss, and others where we feel we will never overcome this pain.

What has been incredibly therapeutic for me has been to create a garden for you, and I'd like you to join me for a walk so that I can show you what I've done.

I can see this garden from the dining room, the coffee room, and my bedroom upstairs.  This garden is the first thing I see when I get home and the last thing I see when I leave.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

There's a little patio out here and I sit in that red chair (which yes... I will replace with something a little more elegant) with my coffee every morning, much the same way I used to sit with you on the front porch.  Do you know how much I miss that?

Everything was centered around the tree that I would plant for you.  Mami suggested a big tree, a strong tree, that would live long after the rest of us were gone.  So I decided on the Crimson King Maple for I find the foliage to be outstanding and downright magnificent.  I couldn't find this tree last fall and someone told me to check with a local plant farm.  I did that and the owner of Pequot Plant Farm went out to find the right tree, fully understanding what the significance was to me.  I think he did a great job in selecting this tree, don't you?

I planted the tree on October 17th after scattering your ashes along with a handful of wildflowers I found on the property in the hole.  It survived our brutal winter and looks gorgeous in its new home.

I wanted lots and lots of hostas to serve as the backdrop because hostas remind me of you:  unassuming, bold, non-presumptuous, and reliable.  I have twenty hostas in this garden but I do believe I'll add more.

Your mother's name was Teresa and although I couldn't find a plant named Mother Teresa, I did find beautiful astilbes named Sister Theresa.  That was close enough for me and it gives me great comfort to have her in this garden with you.  I remember the day your mom died... I was a little girl and it was the only time I had ever seen you cry.  I felt so bad that I couldn't say or do anything to make you feel better.  We never outgrow our parents, papi.  We never do.

I also planted heucheras, ten of them, but think I want to add another fourteen.  You wonder why heucheras?  Well... the common name is coral bells and seeing these in your garden reminds me of your grandfather's clock that you built yourself.  You were so proud of that clock, and who could blame you.  Mami still makes sure that it's wound properly, by the way.

I also planted twenty forget-me-nots, blue ones and white ones, and pulled back the mulch in hopes that they will reseed and multiply.  The blooms are all but spent right now, but a month ago, they really were quite lovely.

The bleeding hearts were the most difficult thing to plant, papi.  It was so emotional and that they don't look robust and full as I know they will in future years has bothered me so much this year.  I planted nine bleeding hearts:  five pink and four white.  One for each of us... your children and your grandchildren.  They're in a nice shady spot of the garden, and when these fade in the summer, the hostas behind will be in full regalia.

The pond in the center of the garden is also not looking as I would like, but in time, the heucheras and hostas and astilbes will fill and soften the edge.  The tiny pond was important to me as it attracts so many froggies and so many dragonflies.  I wanted you to have all sorts of visitors when I couldn't sit out here with you and these gentle creatures are never far away.

I also planted ten Montauk Daisies around your tree, at the edge of the garden.  Why daisies, you ask?  It's simple.  The English word for mami's name is Daisy and I know that you would be happy to have her so close.  Nearby.  You always liked having her close to you.

Two tiny beds near your garden hold Knockout Roses and lace cap hydrangeas that my co-workers gave me when you passed away.  These are full of buds right now and it won't be long before they put on a show of their own.

You can see that there is still quite a span of the garden that has not yet been planted.  I'm working on that and I hope to have it done soon.

So there you have it, papi.  Your garden.  Something for me to do for you for a change.  A chance to take care of you for years and years to come the same way you took care of me for years and years gone by.

We'll walk the garden again on Father's Day, you and me, and have our morning chat like we used to do.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Generosity of Others

Thanks to freecycle.org, I have lots and lots of goodies for my garden.

Cheryle hooked me up with sedum, kousa dogwoods trees, burning bushes, chives, and a Rose of Sharon.

In addition, a very nice man told me I could have whatever plants I wanted from his parents' home, who recently passed away.  I couldn't believe it.

I get to bring someone's beloved garden home.  I saw dozes and dozens and dozens of irises ready to bloom and decided to wait until after they're done to get them.

Day lilies in the hundreds, lily of the valley, chives, peonies, all sorts of things that just made me drool.

I could tell these gardens had been well-tended in their heyday.  The shed had clay pots in all sizes, dozens of them.

Full-grown azaleas were putting on quite the show when I got to the property, and even for someone like me who does not like azaleas at all, I had to stop and look.

I will go back and pick up the irises I couldn't get today, and I think, although am not sure, that I will put those in my own Father's Garden.

The generosity of others is greatly appreciated.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Grows In The Abyss?

Delphinium consolida/Giant Larkspur Imperial Mixture (a)
 You know that I have been obsessing, quietly and loudly, about the abyss.  I got some good comments on this, some good ideas, and am really loving the "swaths of a single plant" idea.

Things are budding and blooming back there, and since I can't really tell the difference between a weed and a non-weed (and who determines what a weed is anyway?), I'm posting a few photos and maybe someone out there can help identify these things.

Chrysanthemum maximum/Shasta Daisy (p)
hrysanthemum maximum/
Chrysanthemum maximum/Shasta Daisy (p)

Silene armeria/Catchfly (a)

Silene armeria/Catchfly (a)
Cheiranthus allionii/Siberian Wallflower (p)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Abyss

What to do, what to do, what to do.

Shots from north to south and from south to north don't make it any prettier.

Three options:

Meadow Garden - requires laying heavy plastic on all this space for the season to kill the weeds and planting heavily in the fall, with seeds.

Sunflower Garden - requires planting approximately 12,000 seeds (yes... TWELVE THOUSAND SEEDS) to choke out all the growing grasses, weeds, etc.

PeeWee and Amistad Gardens - perennial gardens in the traditional sense, which can be started now.

What would YOU do?

NOTE:  Our septic system and leaching fields are back here... trees and woody shrubs are a big no no.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The New and Improved Side Yard

 At this point, anything we do with this area will be new and improved.

This is our side yard, south of the house.  We need to allow room for a truck to come all the way up to the bulkhead doors to the basement so that our septic tank can get pumped out.  (You gotta think of all these things before you put a spade in the ground or you'll be sorry.)

I am dimensionally and directionally challenged.

Frank is marking the width of the needed traffic lane and marking where the hose (or whatever they use) will run across the backyard to get to the septic tank.

Okay... so now that we have that out of the way, we also have a bajillion tree roots as you head west.  (The third photo shows one oak tree on the left which is one of four or five we want to make part of this garden.)

Inside the house, the guest bedroom and our TV room will have full view of this area.  It's gotta be pretty.

The area is shady but not deep, deep shade.

I see a dogwood here.


And dozens and dozens of foliage-rich plants:  heucheras, hostas (of course), lily of the valley, and a host of other things that I haven't even discovered yet.

I haven't  measured out the bed yet but it's a pretty hefty project.  And doing this means I don't have to deal with The Abyss just yet.

I plan to add a bistro set in here, something in a verdigris finish (I love the patina when it gets old), and I'd like to hear water, which I think I will as the koi pond isn't far away (last photo shows the deck... that "hole" in the center is our pond).

So our fourth garden is done (most of the work, in our case, takes place in my head) and with a little luck, I'll get the bones in before summer.

The bottom photo shows the andorra juniper (so tiny) that edges our Japanese Garden.  And if you look very closely (or blow up the picture by clicking on it once or twice), you'll see the recently beheaded Japanese Maple.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Rose Garden - Part I

 I have decided that the New Dawn Rose needs a home.

So a pergola is called for.

Frank is not amused.


Because if there is one thing we can grown in Connecticut regardless of drought, snow, wind, sun, you-name-it, it's ROCKS!

He started to dig the first hole for the first post and hit rock.

Big rock.

I called the guy who excavated our foundation.  He said he'd dig the four holes, four feet deep, for $275.  And he said he'd do it this week.

Frank and I agreed.

Better to pay to have this done than spend 12 hours digging, cussing, sweating, cussing, re-positioning, cussing, digging, cussing, kicking, cussing, screaming, cussing, just to hear, the *$^&#)# rock won't move.

Two clematis have been planted around two of the obelisks (President and Sunset) and I think I'd like a Nelly Moser but I'm afraid the sun will bleach it right out.  (This is a sunny, sunny location.)

I'm placing two trellises against the house (to the right of the air compressor above) and growing climbers, although I don't know which ones yet.

Frank may blow a gasket when I tell him I need to screw something into the house.  He doesn't fare well with these things.

When we built the house, I made him put in a heavy-duty hook on the front for a 12-foot Christmas wreath and he agreed to do that because it was done before the Dryvit went on.  But to add screws now, well... let's see how persuasive I can be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day for May 2011

Cheiranthus allionii/Siberian Wallflower (p)
Carol at May Dream Gardens started this ritual way back in the day (you can read about it here) and this is my first time participating.

I have no idea what this is but it's the first thing to bloom from the wildflower seeds my grandson planted last August in what was to be a meadow garden.  We now call this "garden" The Abyss (more about that in future posts if I can stop hyperventilating every time I think about the challenge that awaits us).

If I follow Heather's lead, I'm supposed to post a photo of everything that's in bloom today.  I'll try to do that.

But the rains are threatening and I have three Japanese Barberry shrubs to plant in the Japanese Garden before we see the H2O.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Off With Their Heads

We did it.

We assessed the situation and decided that the Japanese Maple needed to be pruned, decapitated, redesigned, whatever.

All the dead limbs were pruned close to the trunk.

Plenty of buds exist, persist at that trunk and time will tell what will come of it all.

But in the meantime, the dead is gone, the living remain, and I hope at some point, it will all look elegant, beautiful, natural.


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