Friday, April 30, 2010

Blooms For Fertilizer Friday

That's what's blooming around the garden today!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Focal Points In Your Garden

I have been reading a great deal about focal points in the garden.  The two blogs I especially enjoyed were written at opposite ends of the country, one being Carolyn's Sweet Home and Garden Chicago and the other Rebecca's Gossip In The Garden out in California.  Both are written by professional garden designers and are excellent in that they deal with what we can do in our own yard as regular gardeners.

I read all of the Roundtable blogs and each one had specific ideas which were usable.  But Carolyn's and Rebecca's displayed multiple focal point ideas which were all usable and executable by even the amateur gardener.  Talk about turning gardeners on, something we all need to think about when we speak our gardenerese.

Even if you have a small urban type garden like Carolyn and I have, there can be many focal parts to your garden.  Those with sprawling landscapes can think of focal points in terms of several rooms to a big house.  As you move through these rooms, the focal point will change.  Some will be close up and personal and some will be down a long gently curving path and some might be way in the distance, that we see immediately, but have a journey to reach it.

I have several focal points in my very small yard, however, I am still working on the north side of my home.  It just seems to be a long stretch with a gate at the end, not a lot of interest except the plantings on the side.

I loved one comment, I think from Pam at Digging, that some focal points just need to be screened off!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Container Time

It is that time again, to plant the containers!  I don't know why I bother each year to say I am going to cut down on my container gardening.  There is something about seeing various containers throughout the garden as points of interest.  They make every part of your garden a "go to" location.

I do have some small Guy Wolfe pots that I purchased up in Wisconsin and I use them around my vegetable garden.  Even with additives they dry out quickly, but they look "cottagey" and I like that look around my vegetable garden.  I do bargain hunt for pots at the outlet stores and have found some really special containers such as the broken ceramic piece pots.  We have added drainage holes to many of these with a ceramic drill bit.  It is important to have drainage holes or your plants will rot. 

I purchased two new pots this year the same color tone as my home, and I gave away pots that were repaired or just not something I use anymore.  We put them out in the alley and they were gone within an hour.  It is good to know that someone will get use out of them.  I have a ton of too small pots stored in cabinets in my garage which I should also give away because they dry out too quickly when planted. 

I do use moisture control potting soil, but I also add water retaining crystals to my mix.  Do not add too many preinflated crystals or during a rainstorm they will be all over the ground.  I know the resin pots are getting better and better each year, but I still favor the real thing, concrete, ceramic, clay, etc.  I did purchase two pre-planted bluestone look resin pots at Costco for the far end of the garden, and from a distance, they look great.

Containers require consistent fertilization, at least every two weeks.  I mix up a five gallon pail of super bloom fertilizer, fill up my gallon jug and fertilize, fertilize.  That's what I mean about containers, they are work!  We will revisit when I begin to plant the thrillers, spillers and fillers.  Figure out your expenses per plant, soil, etc., and sometimes is is more economical to purchase a preplanted container if it has all off the colors and plants you desire.

I keep telling myself with each one I plant, they are a lot of work but so beautiful!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mr. Wizard

When I was a young child, there used to be a person on television called "Mr. Wizard."  He was an expert at experiments and could do things that would always amaze us.  Now, I am not saying that I am Mr. Wizard, but I am trying some experiments this year.

My first experiment was with a product called Plantskydd, a critter repellent.  I tried it in three different gardens, one completely overrun by rabbits - most perennials eaten last year, one with spring bulbs tops eaten and the other with various plants and bulbs eaten.  The product was applied in early March and reapplied in the overrun garden because mulch was put down.  Not one plant has been eaten or chewed in any of the three gardens.  The product is guaranteed against animal plant damage.  I know, no one wants to believe this, it it not inexpensive, but it seems to work.

My other experiment is the layered raised bed vegetable garden.  I have really gone big time this year, layering just about everything.  I am also experimenting using the philosophy of Art in the Garden and incorporating the colors of famous artists in my containers and garden beds.  My final experiment is the seed starting that I said I was not going to do, but I have done it without my lights.  I am now hardening off Nicotiana, Saliva and Amaranthus (Love Lies Bleeding).  They are all so fragile I hope they make it.

Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert) I hope you will be proud of me for being an experimenter!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What's Blooming?

There are several things blooming in a quiet way before the full blast of the spring perennials take over.  The Blue Dart Vinca is just beautiful this year.  It must have been the snow cover.  Those Orange Emperor Tulips will not give up making a final showing in the cooler and a little shadier part of the garden.

My strange fern is up and it looks like it could be from the dinosaur age.  I identified it at a local garden center but did not write down the name.  Bleeding Hearts are in full bloom on the north side of my garden and Viburnum Carlesi Compactum is full of blooms with a most heady fragrance by my front walk.  The Amelanchier Regent was beautiful about a week ago as per the picture  Anemone Sylvistris is blooming on the south side of the garden

The vegetable garden looks very colorful this year as I made it a point to grow some unusually named lettuces in some colors that just pop.  The carrots are sprouting between the lettuce, as most of my lettuce usually is done by July, seed onions are coming up between the sets.  It's an experiment called layering, so we'll see if it works.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Swale Gardening

I am doing a couple of coaching jobs, one being the typical blank slate landscaping job and the other can you believe is a swale.  Unbeknown to most gardeners, swale gardening is a whole other area of expertise.  I am certainly not an expert but I did have a swale in my last home. 

Just because there is a graduated dip so the water will flow into this area and away does not mean it is always wet.  The banks of the swale can be quite dry, but eventually the roots from these fringe plants will reach down into where the water flows.   I had three River Birches which loved the wet conditions, banks planted in day lilies which will also tolerate some wetness, some Red Barbary, Claveys Dwarf Honeysuckle and Cranberry Viburnums.  They all did very well with the only planting at the bottom of the swale being the River Birch.

The garden I have looked at had to do a swale because water was leaking into their windrow wells and subsequently their foundation and basement.  I am thinking just because of the size of our lots, River Birch trees will not be an option.  So we  talked about some plantings, Carex Ice Fountains (for the shady, wet area overshadowed by large arborvitaes), Viburnum Autumn Jazz in the sunnier area with plantings of daylilies below.  In the front area of the swale it is also sunny (with three Green Mountain Boxwood already planted), so I suggested coneflowers White Swan and Kim's Knee High.  At the back end leading into the back garden where the swale has ended, it would be nice to end the walk with Viburnum Carlesi Compactum.  All of the large fieldstones will need to be relaid because they are on a slant.  Not all of the plantings will be "in" the swale but will border it on top and bottom. 

The main goal with a swale is to hold the soil on the sides.  My present yard had a really dangerous swale when we moved in: whereas; you had to step down from the patio to walk to the front of the yard, there was no gradual descent.  We had a raised bed built and a paver walkway put from back to front gradually maintaining the swale.  In most cases you cannot remove this swale without impacting neighboring property or your own.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Summer Place

We took a trip to our Wisconsin home mostly because we had a very large arborvitae topple onto the walk during the winter.  It didn't make sense, as ours was the only one in the area to have this problem.  Well, the arborvitae has been propped up with a wooden 2" board.  I am not sure this will be the solution, but for now it is at least upright and looks green and healthy. 

My Knockout rose bushes, which had been under the arborvitae, looked very spindly with only bottom growth, so I cut them back severely.  Our Wisconsin place is about two hours north of the Chicago area, so things are not quite as far along growth wise as back home.  The land where our home is built was littered with huge boulders as construction crews dug foundations.  These boulders were used throughout the area for retaining walls and pleasantly became part of the landscape.

My hyacinths and daffodils are just about done, the sedums, nepetas, coreposis, day lilies, campanulas, shastas, coneflowers, and dianthus are all up and growing well.

I am an absent owner and have to choose plants that are xeric and will not require a great deal of care.  So far, there are times when I think that this far away garden looks better than my garden at home.  There is a watering system on the grounds but just for the grass areas and trees.  All of the bed areas are without any additional water unless by hose.  I have boxwoods, red twig dogwoods, Arrowwood Viburnums, Carl Forrester grasses, Chanticleer Pear over the patio (which looked beautiful).

We put out our patio furniture, and also a small table and chairs by our front door, watered all of our cactus plants, turned the water back on, cut down and fertilized everything.  My husband refused to touch the rose limbs (because we both forgot our garden gloves), but I showed him how brave I was and cut the rose bushes up into little pieces.  He finally loaded them into a plastic bag complaining the whole time.

We talked about selling the place as we both yelled "ouch" from the thorns because we don't come up as much as in previous years.  We have been coming for about twenty years to two different homes, our grandchildren love it, it is a whole different world where people drive long distances to come to Wall Mart.  There are no shopping malls, but there is a Home Depot now and a Target.

If your take a ride in any direction right out of town, there are large expanses of land dotted with farms, cows, sheep and horses.  Little towns whip by in a flash, like Burlington (where Panicum 'Northwind' was discovered at Northwind Perennial Farm).  This perennial farm is certainly worth a stop if there is time, not just for the plants but for the vintage yard art and the chickens that walk with you as you shop.  If you go in the opposite direction down Route 50 out of town you will run into Pesche's Garden Center in the middle of farmland.  It is a fun experience, great gift shop, reasonably priced perennials with lots of unusual varieties.

I get a feeling as I drive in on Route 12 that I am going back in time, like American Graffiti, the young people still play very loud music while tooling around town in their hopped up cars and motorcycles.  This is an old town back to the 1800's with a gorgeous lake, Lake Geneva.  What were we thinking of ?  No Sale!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is There A Reason To Look Out Your Window?

We should all have a reason to look out a window, whether it be to look at who is passing, the dawn, the sunset, the stars, a storm, but most important what we have in our landscapes should be the best reason of all. 

I went around the inside of my home the other day peering out each and every window and, to my amazement, I did have points of interest through just about every window.  I am not sure that this was a major concern when I was landscaping this blank slate.  However, I do remember thinking about the placement of the Chanticleer Pear and the Star Magnolia.  Each one of these specimens fills my view as I look from my dining room windows, the Pear straight ahead and the Magnolia to the side.  I still have some views to improve on my shade side of the garden.

As I move to the living room windows, which are in the shape of a bay, there are flowers visible from all angles.  When I pull up the sheer shades, it always reminds me of that old story The Night Before Christmas when they threw open the shutters and pulled up the sash and saw that magical scene of Santa and his sleigh.  Oh, sorry, I got carried away, but throw back your curtains, pull up your shades and see what you have outside your windows.  Is it interesting?

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's The Last Hurrah!

With temperatures in the mid 80's for the past two days the Spring garden is as a peak.  I have had to water the flopping tulips and hyacinths and the Star Magnolia has dropped most of it's flowers.

I have spent more time this year noticing the sequence and cycle of the plantings because of writing the blog and taking photos.  It is interesting to take a group of photos one day only to see how much they have changed the following day.

Many of the earlier daffodils have dried up and I will have to snap off that little bulb so they don't put energy into making seed.  Even though I have coverage from daylilies and other tall plants, I become very impatient waiting for all of the bulb foliage to die back.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lunch At The Garden Club

The fun garden club has gone back to lunch meetings.  The no lunch situation just began in September and it was not popular.  Wow, what a difference, we could hardly fit everyone in our host home.  I was on the lunch committee today so I was very busy being a hostess.  Many people came out of the woodwork when they heard "lunch."  It was at a beautiful home build in the late 1880's, lots of remodeling, but retaining the original character of the home.

The driveway and the patio brick was from a past era, and the gardens looked true to the original time period of the home.  Our lunch was a wonderful salad of tortellini on a bed of lettuce with bread sticks and salami gorgonzola biscuits with chive butter.  The deserts were yummy, carmel brownies and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

This was a very active crowd who could barely stop talking to hear the presenter.  It is amazing what food will do!  Our speaker was a Botany major in school and has a business as a garden designer and coach.  She spoke on roses, their requirements, culture, pruning and her favorites for our area.  She demonstrated pruning techniques on a real rose bush and answered questions on fertilizing, coffee grounds (not a proponent of using coffee grounds) and protection for the winter (mulch - not rose cones).  She recommended compost as a first course when planting and then the Bayer Systemic throughout the season until August.

I am showing some of her recommendations for our (zone 5) area, but I am sure many will do well in several zones.  There were many more listed, but I just picked out one in each category.  I have had problems with the original cherry colored Knockout, but I agree with our speaker that it is still the most desirable.  The doubles grow smaller and do not have the same spreading habit as the original.  I would say the Rainbow Knockout, even though the flowers are smaller, has a similar spreading growth habit to the original Knockout.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Metamorphosis In The Garden

Metamorphosis is not only something that occurs with caterpillars into butterflies, it occurs in the garden all the time.  I began with an all sun garden under my small Pagoda Dogwood tree tucked into the back corner of my yard.  It's leaf coverage was so small that I could grow Veronica Sunny Border Blue, Cone flowers and Phlox.

Well, over the last few years this lovely dogwood, even though damaged by the Cicadas a couple of years ago, has branched out considerably.  It is no longer a sun garden back there but has morphed into a shade garden.  I really did not want it to be a shade garden, but it spoke loudly as to what it would have growing under it's feet.  I finally gave in and moved the sun loving plants and began to redesign a whole new garden.

I planted Thunder Bolt Hosta, Autumn Fern, Ghost Fern and Maggie Daley (named after our mayor's wife) Astilbe last summer and fall.  I also transplanted a large Rhodie back there from the front of the house.  They have all survived beautifully so I guess it was a good move to go with the shade.

I don't know why I fought this change as I love shade plants and miss so many of them from my other homes.  I guess I am kind of gun shy because in my old old home I had nothing but shade, couldn't grow anything that required sun.  My tomatoes grew to ten feet tall without tomatoes!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Observations

Some posts ago I spoke about a scale disease I had on my Euyonmous Wintercreeper and Rhus Aromatica.  I had used an oil spray several years ago with my Hudson Sprayer on some flowering crab apples.  It was a pain to use, had to be above 50 degrees, no flowers visible and not above a certain temperature..  I did find a hand held spray bottle All Seasons Oil Spray made by Bonide.  It is easy to use on shrubs and small trees can be used above 40 degrees but not above 90 degrees. 

Take a look at Itzim Daffodil still blooming almost three weeks, not affected by the heavy rains or frost, certainly outlasted Jetfire and Tete-A-Tete.  It did say in the description "long blooming."  I will certainly dedicate more space to this one next year.

I have posted a mystery daffodil.  I cannot find it on my purchase orders from Van Engelen or Scheepers.  If you know what it is I would appreciate the name.  The trumpet is whiteish with a little yellow frill. 

Those Hyacinths (City of Harlem) and Daffodils (Sagitta) are into the flops, but I keep propping them up by putting one behind the other.  I ordered a mixed grouping of Hyacinths and got Pink Pearl and City of Harlem and I had some Gypsy from last year. 

I also lamented about my rhododendrons some posts ago that my husband wanted to fill in with a cement front porch.  We had replaced them all and I had asked for a reprieve by turning off the sprinkler in that area.  Well I guess they told him where they belonged!

The mixed Emperor Tulips are beginning to bloom peeking out of my Green Velvet Boxwoods bordering the patio.  Orange Emperor and Sweetheart Emperor are a good combination this year.  Tulips in zone 5 need to be treated as annuals.  If they come back it is a bonus, and the Emperors are more likely to return.

Just look at that Chanticleer Pear!  It is much tougher than the Bradford because it's branches grow upright and are not suseptible to the winds or ice.

Friday, April 09, 2010

May I Borrow That View Please?

We many times spend a lot of time and money blocking out the views from our garden, garbage cans, messy yards, ugly buildings, alleys, etc.  I know, I put up a fence so I could have a frame for my garden and put in all of the beautiful plants I loved without distraction.

So, here I am with this six foot fence, many lovely plantings but, I have only one tree in my back garden. There was only room for my Pagoda Dogwood which sits back in the corner of my yard.  I feel it may even be a struggle to keep this smaller tree within bounds. 

Early on in this home I realized that I had a room with a view!  As I stroll through the patio door on a Spring morning I have not only a Dogwood, but a beautiful Bradford Pear that peeks over my fence in the background.  I used to have many farm lilacs in my old old house but now I just have one that frames the left side of my patio.  The scent is as wonderful in my yard as it is in my neighbor's.  As I walk around to the north side of my home there are beautifully healthy arborvitaes reminding me of my last home.

None of these trees are mine but they all impact the look of my garden.  Thankfully, they are desirable.  If you have a view next to your garden that you would like to borrow, you don't even have to ask.  Just say, thank you!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What Fertilizer Do You Use?

Do you use the same fertilizer for everything?  Do you use different fertilizers for different types of plants, i.e., perennials, annuals, vegetables, shrubs, evergreens, trees, containers,etc.?  I do not have room for a compost pile or container so I use an organic granular (Espoma) 5-3-3 and an organic granular for acid loving plants such as hydrangeas, azaleas, dogwoods and evergreens.  I am sure there are some I am missing, but these are the varieties in my garden.

I do use super bloom liquid formulas in my containers which are produced by Peter's and Schultz's with a high middle number.  When you have containers that are really putting out blooms, you need to pinch and cut back every once in awhile to keep them going until fall.

Carolyn Gail of Sweet Home and Garden Chicago had some very good advice in regard to fertilizer.  Her first recommendation is to do a soil test.  I must admit I am negligent in this area having purchased a kit many years ago that I believe is still in my garage.  Carolyn also informed me that I can purchase some very good compost mixes, "Nature's Finest," and "Back to Nature," are two of the brands on the market.

I have heard from some bloggers regarding their favorites (many like the time-release products).  Let me know if you have something that works well for you because we all seem to spend a lot of money and time on fertilizers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vegetable Garden Memories

My vegetable garden is doing great.  It has really loved all of the rain we have had, and just about everything is up except the parsley.  It is not time yet to put in the tomatoes or peppers so I am sure the cold crops will be lush by May 1.

The radishes need to be thinned and this is always traumatic to have to throw away living plants.  But, if you do not thin them out you will not get useable radishes.  I am growing Red Emperor this year - can't remember if I have grown this variety before.  I am not always successful with radishes, sometimes pithy, eaten by insects, etc.  But, I keep trying because they are so quick to germinate and so tasty when a success.

All of my weird lettuces are up and it is a good thing that I have put down markers or I would never remember their names.  My set onions are up, no seed onions yet, spinach looks great and carrots are peeking through the soil.  It is such a small garden but it still gives me a thrill every year to see the seeds sprouting. 

Plant a garden with your children or grandchildren even if they seem disinterested.  It will make a lifetime impression!

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Quick Game of Pick Up Around The Garden

I always seem to be picking up twigs, grass, leaves, etc., around the garden.  It does give me a chance to see what is going on and fertilize as I make my rounds.

As I spoke with one of my garden center gurus last week, he explained to me that the liquids are fine but they last only two weeks.  They are not as effective as a granular which goes into the soil over a much long period of time.  This made sense to me, so I am going to try a different approach this year, granular and a quick shot of liquid fertilizer mostly for my acid loving plants.  I have already done the granular around my Magnolia, Hydrangeas, Rhododendrums, Dogwood. and Yews.  I will also mix up a potion of the liquid acid fertilizer and give them a shot of this.  I hope I am not over medicating!

I think my soil is pretty good, being over 100 years old, I am still seeing old bulbs pop up every so often.  In fact I just saw a plant that I cannot identify.  My neighbor tells me that a real gardener used to live on this property.  I feel her presence when one of these unplanted specimens appears. 

I have a newer home that was built on this old property.  It's is kind of spooky isn't it?  Every so often I pull violets out of the front garden, but I don't think much about it since my old old house had thousands of violets.  My former neighbor and I would put out garbage cans of violets and actually sell them at a garage sale.  We were always surprised that people would buy something that would take over their life!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Instamatic Spring

Many of us will remember that was the name of a camera not "Spring."  However, in many areas, it seems to have come on instantly following frost and snow.  We are happy, our mood is on the upswing and we are giddy at the sight of all of the beautiful flowers.  Our gardens have exploded with color, so fast in many cases, that we go to bed in the evening and plants we didn't even notice the day before are blooming.

My daughter-in-law asked me yesterday how she could have all of her tulips blooming behind the daffodils for Easter.  They are all early tulips, Monte Carlo and Emperor but normally not quite ready to bloom with the early daffodils.  However, with all of the heat we have had it might work - how?  Water, water, water, not something you think about this time of year.  But, if you have high temperatures, your early spring flowers are going to need water.  We are getting some rain today so I won't have to water again this morning.

I looked like a crazy gardener out yesterday morning with my hose.  You would have thought it was the middle of summer, but to me it was with 84 degrees Thursday and 82 degrees yesterday.  We are supposed to get rain and cooler temperatures, but with the heat give your little blooms a drink and they will stay around a little bit longer

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Magazine Worth Owning

I just received my new issue of GardenMaking.  I know, you are saying, "I never heard of that one!"  Well, it was a recommendation from my blogging friend Allan Becker from the gardenguru a couple of months ago.  It is published in Canada, and as Allan said, it is all gardening information, not advertisements.

I am so thrilled with the article Allan Armitage wrote saying phooy to all of those people who worry about how to pronounce all of the latin names and making the garden perfect - it is always a work in progress.  He loves the idea of sticking plants in that we like even though they may not go with the "design."  How can you try new plants if you don't experiment?

Another article that impressed me with it's ease of understanding was Six Steps To A Beautiful New Border by Stephen Westcott-Gratton.  He tells us that a new border should blend in with the overall garden design i.e., if curved beds already exist, it should be a more casual border rather than structural and geometric as in straight bed borders.  He goes on to stress mapping out dimensions, improving soil, adding a focal point, choosing plants and planting.  This is a great article for beginners or seasoned gardeners who need reminders.

GardenMaking has article after article (I counted twenty-one), with a minimum of advertising pages.  You might find it here in the States at a major book store like Barnes & Noble or Borders, or look it up on line.  In the United States, it is $29.95 for six issues and reads like a gardening book each time you receive it..