Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Bountiful Harvest In a Small Garden

After an early morning heavy rainstorm, I went out to the garden to check the veggies.  Oh, I had two tomatoes, two cucumbers and a few more peppers last week, so I wasn't expecting much.  Voila!  I ventured around the back of the garden and found many more tomatoes than I had seen previously, pulled some carrots (small but we did have them for dinner) cut the basil and picked some more of those pretty hot peppers.

When you pick tomatoes choose various stages of ripeness so that you don't end up with more ripe tomatoes than you can use in a given time frame.  However, this doesn't always work if you have planted tons of tomatoes.  Good luck, I have been there with making every tomato recipe I could find, giving them away to the point where friends and family said they couldn't use anymore!

Keep the basil flowers deadheaded or the plant will go into decline.  I cut quite a bit today and I can't use it right away, so it becomes a decorative arrangement plunged into a pitcher of water.  It will hold for a couple of days until I can make my pesto recipe.  This is a recipe given to me by my daughter-in-law because the children would not eat my pesto but went back for seconds with hers.  Mine was the James Beard adult recipe, a little too strong not only for children but for some adults.

1/4 cup of pine nuts
1 large bunch of fresh basil, no stems
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese shredded
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of olive oil

Process in blender or food precessor, store in refrigerator or freeze

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Most Impressive Hydrangeas

This is the time of year the big ones show their stuff!  They do not bloom all summer but when they do, they are show stoppers.

This is Limelight Hydrangea.  I cut it down in March in a semi-circle so that it will bloom throughout the plant and not just on top.  It grows to about 7 feet tall and just as wide.  Limelight enjoys full sun but will bloom in part shade.  Fertilize with an acid fertilizer in the spring and again in the early summer.  The blooms begin a white with a tinge of green, then turn greenish and then pink to rose to tan in the winter.  I cut them at three stages and leave some dried tan for winter interest.  The is a spectacular plant and will draw many comments from those who pass by.

The flowers are large and fluffy, somewhat pendulous but not bending to weigh the plant down.  If not shaped in the spring it will get many blooms on top and tend to look top heavy.

This is Unique Hydrangea and it can grow to eight feet or more.  I shape it to about two feet tall in the spring and it grows to about six feet on my tight north side of the house.  I love this one, it is so Victorian, white, then white with pink then rose.  It is unusual because it has many seed heads showing amongst the florets.

The panicles are about twelve inches long and last for years when they are dried.

This is my daughter-in-law's Pink Diamonds Hydrangea.  We shaped it in the spring because it had been let go to the point where there were only blooms at the top.  It will probably take another year before it is a full shape with flowers throughout.  It is more upright than Unique, not as pendulous, flowers not as large, but does go through the full range of colors until the end of the seasons.

You can have beautiful hydrangeas with the proper shaping and feeding.  All of the above hydrangeas grow on old and new wood so it can only help each year to cut out any dead branches, not to worry about bringing them down to a size that will work on your property, don't forget to feed!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let's Heat Things Up!

You have got to be kidding!  This year has been a wake up call for me in regard to plants that can withstand the intense heat we have had for most of the summer.  Granted, each and every summer is different and not like this one, but we must think in terms of planting what will hold up in our gardens if we have this type of weather.
Pennisetum Hamlin

Believe it or not, but the plants that are surviving this heat are impatiens, followed quickly by coneflowers, zinnias, succulents, sedums, agastache, centranthus, nepetas, verbenas, fibrous begonias, lantana, coleus and of course daylilies.  The phlox has suffered browning leaves and the petunias bought in pre-planted containers have dried up.  The petunias that I planted in my own containers have done much better.  The geraniums have ceased to bloom in this heat, however, the ones that I mossed the top of the containers are reviving and setting buds

Grasses usually love this weather, even the carex on the north side of my home is flourishing.  Hydrangeas are into the wilts and will require extra water as well as the ferns, astilbes and hostas.  The rose bushes look good and do not go into the wilt mode easily.  However, they are continually attacked by insects during this type of weather.
Miscanthus Udine

I will definitely become more aware of plants that will withstand the heat, repel insects and still add color to the garden.  Here are a few:  Grasses, Agastache, Gailladaria, Verbenas, Lantana, Sedums, Nepetas, Coneflowers, Penstemons, Agaves, Daylilies, Dianthus (Firewitch) and many more.  Check out for more ideas.  I am seriously thinking of making the south side of my home into a completely succulent garden.  Xeric plants are not plentiful in my area because intense, prolonged hot weather is not typical.  However, in the past years I have put more and more of these waterwise plants into my garden.

Coleus with Bronze Sweet Potato Vine

Lemon Twist Coleus
I will never again plant a dahlia!  I know this sounds drastic, but I have more bad looking dahlias this year than any other plant I can remember.  Although, maybe it depends on the variety because the large ones that I have in the ground look good (except the insects love them).  We do not seem to have the climate for this plant.  I remember my friend from Scotland whose husband was a dahlia expert, crossing them and growing them each year he was in the United States.  I now appreciate his expertise to make it work.

Coleus Inky Fingers
Even my Dianthus Firewitch has had a problem here this year, but not in Wisconsin.  Mine on the south side of my home is in it's first  year and maybe could not take the heat.
Gaillardia Arizona Sun
Gaillardia Mesa
Phlox Eva Cullum

Fibrous Begonia
Impatiens with Coleus

Border with Impatiens

Petunias in Hayracks on North Side

Verbena Great Expectations (purple) blooms all summer with deadheading.

Sedum Autumn Joy almost prettier than when it turns red

Nicotiana Alba

Coneflower Magnus

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

I know, another movie but somehow a lot of movie titles apply to gardening.  The good is that we had  rain up to eight inches in twelve hours. We really needed rain because of the prolonged heat and dryness.  The bad is that the rain was torrential, many streets flooded, whole communities were shut down as were parts of the expressway, power outages and flooded basements.  The ugly is what many of us have left in our gardens, irretrievable plants that I will have to cut down, whipped grasses and fallen tomato plants.

These Beckys did not look too bad but when I went to prop them up many of the stems were broken.

Becky in the front was a little further along so I was almost ready to cut back even before the storm.

I still have some pretty blooms left that have survived but most everything looks a little beat up.  Guess what, the Japanese beetles survived still chomping away on my rose buses, dahlias and numerous other goodies
This cucumber trellis from Gardener's Supply is working!
The Dura Cage could not hold up to the weight of the Beefsteak tomato.  Because it is made of plastic, the legs broke under the weight.  It is a great design, but the material is not suitable to hold up the large tomatoes.  I will contact the company and let them know they have a good idea with the wrong material.

Variegated Heliopsis loves the heat and certainly didn't mind the rain.

Tetrina's Daughter weathered the storm.

Heuchera Villosa Purpurea
The flowers are lovely but they got hit hard also.  I just can't cut them yet.

Pink Knockout
I will have my work cut out for me the beginning of the week, mostly cutting down the Becky Shastas (they were so big they just could not withstand the downpours).  I am really wrapping my mind around fall right now, bought some fake pumpkins at the craft store to ready them for container decorations.  I cannot use real pumpkins because the squirrels instantly eat them.  If you spray the fake ones with marine varnish, they hold up very well outside.  Don't worry, I am not putting them out in July or even August!
Lemon Queen Heliopsis

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Containers - What's Working And What Is Not!

This is the time of year I go into a funk about my garden, but this year it is not so much the garden as it is my containers.  I am not in despair over all of them but some that I thought would be wonderful, like my hayracks on the shed, I have already replanted.

The insects, slugs, japanese beetles and who know what else have really ravaged some of the plants along with the heat and rain.  Well, it kind of gives me a road map as to what I will try next year - not dahlias, the earwigs have had a feast. 

Front Concrete Planters
Those great petunias have weathered the storm and they will definitely have a place in my containers, not bocapa, all green and no flowers.  I can always count on impatiens, no damage, just need lots of water, fibrous begonias a winner, lobelia (laguna), ivy and geraniums all going great.
Bubble Gum Supertunia

Blue Ceramic Containers
I will use more moss next year to protect against evaporation on the top of the containers.  It already seems to be helping on the ones I have recently mossed.

My tropicals have been stunning this year, crotons, sedums, etc., have all put on a show.  The hanging baskets have struggled to stay alive with the heat even though they have been watered every day sometimes even twice.  My hayracks were been planted with dahlias (big mistake) get mushy from rain, dry up from heat. 
Agave, Red Rosie Hens and Chickens, Creeping Jenny and the mystery yellow (also a succulent) plant that I didn't think was going to do much.  Now I wish I knew the name!

The Rooster pot has come back!
 Oh, what would we do if everything was perfect? 
Cast Iron Containers
Irish Pots in the border with Pineapple Coleus

Pink Impatiens and Orange Reiger Begonia on patio

Fushia Autumnale spilling from the cast iron containers.  It is a bronze and green colored leaf and it really blooms.  I think I would pinch it next year to fill out more rather than getting so long.  However, it is lovely!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reincarnation In The Garden

This is the time of year we begin to get a little down when we look at some of our plants in the garden. First, the incessant rains, producing huge plants, then the heat shriveling them up.  No matter how much we fertilize and water some plants have not done well. 

Dahlias are not blooming and even though watered daily are drying out.  Some of the plantings are burned.
I am going to concentrate on just one area, my hayracks on the garden shed.  Last year they were beautiful, but I did make a few changes in plants this year which could be the problem.

Last Year
Well, I couldn't imagine looking at them for the rest of the summer and into fall, so I decided to do something I have never done before - redo the hayracks into something totally different.  It has always been my rule that by the middle of June, I am done with container gardening, not worth adding anything else or even replacing plants that did not live up to expectations.  I just merely yanked them and lived with what was left.

If I am going to spend the time doing this in 93 degree heat, I am going to do it right, adding new moisture control soil, along with some soil moist and some moss on top of the soil for protection.

I will even out the verbena, mix in the soil moist with some new potting soil.
The dahlias have not done well in any container this year, only in the vegetable garden and in the border.  All the container dahlias are going into the vegetable bed when I cut down the Ice Carnival Daylilies.  We will
see if they come back to life.

       Replanted dahlias in veggie garden between trimmed daylilies.
Does anyone else have plants that need a reincarnation this year?  I am seeing lots of beauties on the web, but not much that looks like some of my throw aways. 

Replanted Hayracks

This poor thing certainly needs some help.  It is scorched even though it was watered every day.  I will cut it back, fertilize, and turn it to a better side that had more shade.

A little better!
Dahlias planted in the veggie garden in spring

Trimmed my Costco containers, daisies and petunias

 I mossed the inside of my containers that  face that wicked west sun.  It will cut down on the water evaporation.
Home Depot had a  fresh shipment of annuals, so there must be many who do this each year even though it's a new venture for me.  Not only were people loading up on their great perennial sale, but several were walking out with baskets of petunias and carts of annuals. 

As I walked out with my fresh new annuals and moisture control soil, the person behind me had a cart full of mums.  Yikes!  In another few weeks, I'll be thinking pumpkins?