Obsession

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I’m slowly making my way around the garden borders for the first of the season clean-up — edging, weeding, dividing and relocating as needed.  Sadly, it’s already June 11th and I’m only half way there!

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I have no idea how I ended up with more than 13 mixed borders, a vegetable garden, an orchard (fruit trees, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and currants), and a separate, rather large, pumpkin patch (thankfully planted over with a green manure crop this season to rebuild the soil).

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I think my garden has expanded past the size that I can comfortably handle…

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And yet, I’ve already enlarged the gazebo border this season (as in I’ve covered it with cardboard and straw to kill the grass; not that I’ve actually found the time to plant it out yet).

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I can’t seem to stop myself!  Reminds me of the following quote by Phyllis McGinley…

“The trouble with gardening is that is does not remain an avocation.
It becomes an obsession.”

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When, I ask myself constantly, is enough, enough?  I’ve made 3 trips to the local nursery this week AND ordered plants online from Bluestone Perennials because they wisely sent me a 50% off email – they knew I couldn’t resist the compulsion to buy more plants!  I feel like I need an intervention.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – May 2017

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Quite a few changes in the garden between the time I left on vacation the 3rd week in April and yesterday.  We had torrential rains while I was away, leaving many of the borders and much of the lawn under inches of water.  We had a fairly rainy weekend as well, but softer showers which were able to seep into the ground as quickly as it arrived leaving everything green and sparkling with rain drops.

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Despite the rather wet weekend, I was able to get a little planting done in the vegetable garden.  Another 50 or so walla walla sets went in, as did the first planting of carrots and beets, into the raised beds.  The regular beds are still too soaked to plant.  The week is looking dry and warm however, so hope to get the lettuces, kale, chard and a few other types of seeds planted.  I’m feeling a couple of weeks behind due to the trip.

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I was able to get a little spot weeding done in some of the flower borders.  I also bought and planted 3 Japanese Willows (Salix integra ‘Hakaro Nishiki’), two in the front yard and one in the back next to the gazebo, and a Gold Thread Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’) in the rock garden.  Picked the first rhubarb of the season on Saturday, and we’ve been cutting asparagus since we returned; looks like a banner crop this year.

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The majority of yesterday, however, was spent planting out 20+ containers.  I still have another 7 to fill, but ran out of annuals.  I feel another trip to the nursery coming on!  Sadly it will have to wait until after work today.  Alas, Monday has arrived…

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Here are a few other photos, taken yesterday, of what’s blooming in the garden.

 

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One of the late blooming varieties of daffs in the borders
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One of the pear trees now loaded with blossoms
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Okay, this isn’t blooming yet, but the black currants are loaded with buds
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Pear blossoms
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There are few things as delicious as freshly cut asparagus

 

New Arrivals

I’ve been trying to get better about growing more from seed and taking cuttings to expand my garden, rather than buying every plant that looks and sounds exciting to me.  My gardening habit has become quite expensive!

Nevertheless, I’ve added or expanded a border every year since I started this garden in 2012 and that requires lots of new plants, however acquired.  This year is no different.  I have plans to redesign the front yard and have several borders in the backyard that need expanding as well.  I’m trying to incorporate permaculture principles to the extent I can as I expand and, toward that end, I continue to add shrubs and trees to the areas immediately surrounding the house and underplant these with a mix of perennials, annuals, certain vegetables and herbs.

Since this blog is, in part, my garden journal, I thought a review of what will be arriving this year in the mail — usually by the 2nd week of May — was a worthwhile exercise.  So, in this year’s line up, we have:

Lychnis coronaria – commonly known as rose campion; it’s an herbaceous perennial that grows 2-3′ tall and blooms from May to July; it has brilliantly colored magenta blossoms with silver foliage; I find the color contrast mesmerizing. It’s a short-lived perennial, but self-seeds happily.  I’ve none in the garden and couldn’t resist adding.

Clematis terniflora – also known as “Sweet Autumn” clematis; this is replacing one that died last winter.  This clematis blooms in August and September and can reach a height of 30′ or more in a season.  It becomes a spectacular mass of white flowers.  I love it, I miss it, so I’m replacing it.

Here’s a photo of the one that passed; it was just starting to bloom in this photo; climbing the trellis on the side of the front porch

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ – this is a red-blossom honeysuckle.  Honeysuckles do very well in my garden; they’re hearty climbers and the hummingbirds feast on them!

Clematis ‘Diamond Ball’ – this is a new variety for me; it has 4-5″ light lavender blossoms.  It looks beautiful in the photos – we’ll see how it fares.

Iris ‘Immortality’ – I love Bearded Irises and have been trying to add new varieties throughout the borders every year. ‘Immortality’ is a white, reblooming variety and my intent is to add it to the revamped front borders.  Below is not ‘Immortality’, but I needed some color in this post!  The Iris below is ‘Autumn Circus’.

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Stachys Byzantina – commonly known as “lambs’ ears” – it can be found growly freely in this area, although not as frequently now as I recall as a child.  A wonderful, silver-foliaged plant that works great on the edges.

Canna ‘Tropicanna’ – another new addition to the container plantings; this has multi-hued, fiery looking foliage.  My plan is to put it in a large container and place it toward the back of the hot border.

Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’ – blooms late spring to early summer; ‘Solar Flare’ has bi-colored blossoms opening as a bright, lemon yellow and then fading to a warm orange at the base, leaving you with a two-toned blossom-lined stalk.  Another new addition to the hot border.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Mystica’ – clusters of small white flowers with lavender shading, with deep purple stalks and foliage; blooms late spring to early summer and is a great butterfly and hummingbird attractor.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – blooms in late summer through fall, Sedums grow easily in my garden.  I have many ‘Autumn Joy’ already, but like the burgundy foliage in this variety.  Butterflies are fond of Sedums, and it provides seeds to birds during the winter months.

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ – also known as “Fountain grass”, this is a perennial, ornamental grass.  I just started to added perennial grasses to the borders a couple of years ago.  Some, despite claims that they were hardy to Zone 4, didn’t make it through the first winter.  I’m hoping this one will.   This variety has bottle brush plumes and should reach 30″ or so.

Philadelphus coronaries ‘Icelandic’ – common name “Mock Orange” — a 6′ shrub with creamy-white flowers in spring, I’m adding this to the front yard.

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – This variety has a rounded 3′ shape with subtle grayish green leaves that look almost variegated (from the photo in the catalog – I’ve not seen one “live”), and reportedly has fragrant clusters of pale pink flowers that bloom in May.  I purchased two and they’re going in the front yard.  Well maybe one will go in the back yard; I haven’t yet decided.

Cornus alternifolia ‘Golden Shadows’ – commonly called “Pagoda Dogwood”; I love the look of this tree.  I bought two. I know I want to add one to the front, who knows where the second will end up.  I love the lime-green, variegated leaves.  It grows to about 8′ tall so it’s perfect for my smallish front yard.

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Cercis Canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’ – common name, “Eastern Redbud” – blooms in early spring with fushia pink to red, pea-like blossoms; can grow 15-25 feet tall.

I also have several flowers and vines that are direct seeded after the last frost (usually not until after May 15-18 in a good year): Monarda mixture (a/k/a Bee Balm) – seeds from John Scheepers; Tropaeolum ‘Old-Fashioned Tawny’; Sunflowers – usually 3 or 4 varieties every year; Zinnia (Oklahoma mix); Ipomoea purpurea ‘Grandpa Ott’s”; Thunbergia ‘Sunrise Surprise’ and ‘White-Eyed Susie’; Hyacinth Bean – a new vine I’m trying out this year.

 

If you can’t garden outside…

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Clearly I’m not able to get outside and do any cleanup with the snow and water on the ground, and likely won’t be able to do so for awhile yet.  But the indoor “nursery” has been hopping for a few weeks now.

I have roughly 200 plants in seed trays and pots right now, and I will sow another 50 or so in 3 weeks.  That’s a couple of hundred less than last year, but N and I will be in Ireland for 10 days at the end of April/first week of May (yeah! our first time there).  My brother will move into the house to tend to our various animal babies, and well as the green babies.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the poor guy!

So, here’s what’s cooking inside at the moment:

Flowers

Several salvia varieties, Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’, Salvia farinacea ‘Fairy Queen’, Salvia splendens ‘Flare’ — salvia is a perennial in zones 8 and up, but treated as an annual in our neck of the woods since it won’t overwinter; will tolerate poor soils and some drought; ‘Victoria Blue’ has a deep blue flower (and it’s a true blue, which is rare) and blooms from June through the 1st frost.  I use it as a filler in the mixed borders, as a butterly attractor, and simply because I love the color.  This is my first year planting the other 2 varieties.  ‘Flare’ is a flaming red, so they will end up in the hot border.

Digitalis purpurea ‘Strawberry Fayre’ (common name: Foxglove) — biennial and prolific self-seeder; quintessential cottage garden flower; comes in shades of pink, purples and white; I have many purple varieties already in the garden; this one happens to be the Strawberry Foxglove variety; they are attractive to bees, butterflies and certain birds.

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Dianthus (also known as Cottage Pinks) — in shades of pink, red and white; these work wonderfully in front of the border, and I plant them everywhere.

Echinacea purpurea (common name: coneflower) — a perennial that blooms from mid-summer into the late fall; a favorite of the bees and butterflies; and not just another pretty face, Echinacea is an excellent immune-booster.  This plant makes an appearance in many of my borders as well.  I’m a sucker for anything daisy-like.

Dahlia – varieties: ‘David Howard’ (orange with deep burgundy foliage; I love the look of this plant (see below)); ‘Thomas Edison’ (deep purple flower); ‘Worton Blue Streak’ (actually lavender  in color, rather than the blue that the name suggests); ‘Kelvin Floodlight’ (a huge pale yellow flower — seriously, each flower is 8-10″ wide).

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I also have dozens of an unnamed red variety that were given to me by a local gardener that are quite spectacular.  Dahlias will not overwinter here, but I dig up the tubers after the first hard freeze kills off the foliage and store them in the basement.  I replant them in pots in March and by the time we’ve had (hopefully) our last freeze in mid to late May, they’re ready to go back into the ground outside.

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Hollyhock — it is, of course, impossible to have a cottage garden without hollyhocks (the old-fashioned, single bloom variety); I adore them and have them in a variety of colors — pinks, burgundy, white and yellows; they are biennial, self-seeders and you’ll have volunteers popping up all over the garden if you leave them to their own devices; they look marvelous planted at the back of the border, and against walls and fences.  I have a dickens of a time getting them to germinate inside, and usually only end up with a handful of seedlings.  They do so much better when allowed to freely self-seed outside (and I do allow them to do so), and yet, I keep trying each season to start them indoors.

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Cleome (also knows as spider plant) — annual — predominantly in shades of pink or white, in a good year, the plants can tower up to 6′ tall.  Another plant that doesn’t like to germinate inside for me, but a hearty “volunteer” outside.

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Lathyrus odoratus (commonly known as Sweet Peas) — an annual; a 6-8′ vine with wonderfully fragrant flowers.  I’m planting several varieties this year and although I generally direct seed in early spring, I decided I would try starting some inside this year.  Even with pinching off, they’re already 5-6″ tall!  I’m growing the following varieties: ‘Chocolate Flake’, ‘Spring Sunshine Champagne’, and ‘North Shore’.  I also have a pastel mix from John Scheepers.

Vegetables

Cauliflower (‘Purple of Siciliy’) — an heirloom variety, beautiful, and quite tasty

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Eggplant (‘Casper’) — a white eggplant (probably evident from the name) that originated in France.

Peppers (‘Autumn Bell’) – red bell pepper

Tomato (‘Thessaloniki’ and ‘Nepal’), medium sized slicing tomatoes; Tomato (‘Koralik’), cherry tomatoes for the hens and ducks (and occasionally, I even get a few).

Walla Walla (sweet yellow onion) — absolutely delicious cooked on the grill!

Herbs

Agastache foeniculum (common name: Anise Hyssop) — perennial and member of the mint family.  This blooms in the summer and attracts a diverse variety of bees and butterflies.

Matricaria recutita (commonly known as German Chamomile) — a medicinal herb known for its calming properties; great in teas, but also a delightful, little daisy-like bloom.

More Permaculture Wisdom

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  • Avoid bare soil as much as possible.  Bare soil will erode and lose water at a faster rate than mulched surfaces. Your plants and the wildlife will thank you for the covered soil.
  • Feed soils top-down through mulching.  A covering of compost and/or well-rotted manure, topped by straw or natural (no dyes, no chemicals) wood mulch, on each of your beds/borders will feed the soil, encourage beneficial insect and worm development, and retain moisture for your plants.
  • Minimize tillage.  If we observe a healthy forest, we notice that the forest floor is littered with dead leaves and decaying trees and branches — a wealth of organic matter left undisturbed to benefit the soil and life underneath.  Every time we till we not only bring unwanted weed seeds to the surface, we destroy the delicate balance of life that has been created in the soil.  Create a habitat for invertebrates.
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  • Tread lightly on the land.  Life on this planet is a complex, inter-connected web. We, as humans, are only one of the many and varied life forms walking this world.  It is not ours to abuse.
  • Create habitat for songbirds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife.  Plant trees, shrubs and insectary (flowering) plants to provide food and shelter.
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  • Learn about and treasure “weeds.”  Most “weeds” are only plants growing where we don’t want them to be.  Many, such as dandelions, have multiple, beneficial purposes.
  • Practice polyculture at every opportunity.  There’s a significant difference between organic monoculture and planting a community of interdependent plants in a manner the replicates the complex layering in nature.
  • Know your plants.  The more you know about your plants’ soil, light and water requirements, the happier you will all be.
  • Plant some trees and then plant some more…107