Sunday, November 15, 2009

A cactus for all seasons

These Christmas cactus plants spent the summer out on the screened porch, so I guess I can include them in a garden blog, even though they're primarily house plants. This photo was taken on November 14. Do you see why they're special?

What makes them even more special is that they also bloomed last spring, for Easter. Let's see ... Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving ... what holiday will they celebrate next?

With a note to the outside garden, we bought a rotary lawnmower yesterday. It's not self-propelled. I don't see much point in that, since the areas of grass are losing ground to the ever expanding flower beds. Why a power mower when I profess to enjoy using the non-motorized reel mower? Well, the reel mower won't chew up leaves and small twigs. When the rain stops and the leaves still on the ground have had a chance to dry out, I'll use the power mower to turn them into mulch to spread over the daylily and lily beds. I don't see much point in buying mulch to keep the plants cozy and prevent the frost from heaving them out of the soil.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Daylilies Planted!

It has been 18 days since the past post. There hasn't been much happening in in the garden until the past several days. The daylilies bought at Lilywood Farms were picked up over Labor Day weekend. There were nearly three dozen of them to be planted. The majority went in along the north fence. (Sorry for the bad photo -- it was late in the day, so the shadows were deepening and making for awkward contrasts.)

This bed reaches from the sunporch to the hosta and lily garden in the back corner. It's five feet wide and about 35 feet long. I turned over the dirt for about 10 feet and then gave up. The rest of the lilies were planted in decent sized holes dug out of the hard dirt. My shoulders couldn't take any more digging. I thought about renting a tiller but never got around to it. Three daylilies were planted along the north fence, just inside the entrance to the back garden. They've been mulched and look better now. This was taken just after they went in.

Four of the daylilies were planted up front, at the SW corner of the house. I'm hoping they'll grow up enough to help mask the hose connection. I'll put some other plants in front to give it some depth.
Several daylilies are planted in the maple island. You can't see much of them behind the ferns and hostas. I think they'll get enough sunlight there. I got 3 of each kind of daylily, but I didn't plant them together. When they start blooming, there should be a good mix of colors and styles.
I saw some pansies at a good price at Lowe's last week, so I bought a couple of flats for color and put most of them along the edge of the island for color. I put more of the pansies by the pink dogwood. The scrawny nasturtiums were pulled up. A couple of them managed to produce a single flower, but they weren't adding much to the yard decor.
Did I mention that last spring I bought three witch hazel bushes from Michigan Bulb and that one of them died? Well, it didn't! Just last week I noticed that the stalk has leaves on it! If this isn't a great reason for extreme procrastination, I don't know what is. I can't tell you how many times I nearly pulled up the stick and threw it away. It's hard to see the leaves against the grass, but they're there -- I swear! You can see the top part of the stem where it got so dry that it cracked and fell over. [Poke the picture to see a larger version.]
I'm proud to announce that we got the first beautiful, red, ripe tomato off the plants yesterday! There are probably a half dozen more that are very green but firm and healthy looking. I trimmed back some of the foliage so the fading sun can get to them. If they never turn red, I won't mind. I love fried green tomatoes. I'm just tickled that we got any at all.
I trimmed back all of the gladiolus foliage, which was getting pretty raggy looking. What green remains is mainly weeds. I think I'm going to mulch them well and leave them in the ground, although in Zone 6 we're warned to take them up for the winter. I'm banking on a warm winter and hoping for a warmer summer next year. If they don't do well next summer, they will be history. That one mum is looking good. I think I should get more to edge that flower bed in a semicircle from fence to fence. There are some later mums by the gate that are just beginning to show color.

Here are the hollyhocks. The slightly smaller ones in back (red arrow) were planted from seeds. The larger one up front (yellow arrow) was purchased from Michigan Bulb. They're not all that different in size, even though the seeds were planted fairly late in the season. There's a lesson here. They should make a lovely patch of tall color at that corner of the house next summer.
One of the arbor vitae bushes died. I need to go back to the nursery and find out if they guarantee them. The other one is showing a small patch of browning. I'm hoping it's just natural aging and not a sign of a serious problem.
I noticed the leaves on one of the dragon flowers by the front walkway had some white on it, almost as if it had been sprinkled with flour or plaster dust. You can see some of it on the leaves behind the flower. I noticed the same thing on a friend's flowers when we visited last week but thought they had just dusted it with an insectide or bone meal or something. Maybe not. I need to figure out what this is and if I need to do anything about it. So far this is the only plant I've seen with the problem.
The weather is holding nicely . I'm having fun getting the garden ready for winter, even if it does mean some awfully sore muscles at night!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


It has been nearly a month since my last post. The garden is pretty much sleeping, except for the surprise lilies. They're growing along the north fence and part of the east fence. These are the lilies that produce foliage in the spring, then die back completely only to send up a beautiful stalk of pink flowers in mid summer. Believe it or not, these were thinned a year ago. They're royally hard to kill. I think I may try to move some of the bulbs of them later in the fall. They're nice lilies, but it seems unnatural to have them growing in such a straight line.
Other parts of the garden aren't faring so well. The coral bells haven't bloomed and are showing signs of ill health (circle), and the nasturtiums, which should have grown to three times this size and been flowering for weeks, are still stumpy and weak (arrow). I don't think they get enough sunlight here.

The bleeding heart has passed on to botanical heaven. I'm not sure if it thinks August 1 is the time to go dormant or whether it just up and died. I guess we'll find out in the spring.

The tomato is not exactly the picture of health, either. It is just now flowering. It's on the north side of the fence, but it does get sunlight several hours a day.

Lloyd's cacti, however, are thriving. He has plans to replant them, but while they're patiently waiting for new homes, they're blooming quite well.
The yellow arrows point to real cactus flowers. The red arrow indicates straw flowers that were glued onto a cactus. Silly, isn't it?
Other than chasing weeds, there's not much happening right now, which is good, as we're leaving tomorrow for two or three weeks. That's right. At this point we're not sure when we'll be back. My good friend Norma Jeane will come water while we're gone. I can't wait to see how it will have changed in our absence!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sidetracked again!

I hope you enjoyed your Fourth of July holiday weekend. We relaxed with friends, our favorite way to celebrate.
On Monday I got back to work, digging and planting the lily garden. Three cheers for Walmart's 50% off sale. There are three heights of lilies. The shorter ones in the front are a pale pink, but they're finished blooming already. The low plants in back and in the front are hostas. When they fill out, this corner should be green and blooming nearly all spring and early summer. The garden is framed by the little Japanese maple on the left and the crabapple tree. Very pleasant, and the cranes look right at home here. Next season I may plant a vine on the trellis, but for now, the cranes rule.

This morning, Tuesday, I went out to finish spreading the mulch but got seriously distracted by the startburst pavers. I bundled off to the farm store for paver base and a tamper and got to work. This is how far I got ... the stones in place on the paver base. I need to get sand to fill in between, and Lloyd promises to stake the frame so it won't shift.
By the time I finished this much, it was getting too hot to mess around outside, so I came inside to work on the kitchen. I got most of the cabinets, ceiling, and woodwork washed, so tomorrow we can begin painting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mulch, Lattice and Yard Art

Finally, photos. This is the entrance garden mulched. I used a dark brown dyed mulch that supposedly won't fade. It took longer to pull out the weeds than to lay down the mulch, but neither activity was fun for my back, knees, and shoulders. Inside the gate, I had to leave two patches uncovered. That's where I planted the tiny seeds for the Russian sage. The sage is sprouting, but I can't tell those seedlings from the weeds. I'll have to wait a few days until the sage starts putting out recognizable leaves. All of the other plants look so much happier with the mulch.

The pachysandra stands out against the mulch. You can see in the front a few that aren't going to make it. I left them in place in hopes that the roots are still viable. The plants farther back are much more robust.

I finally planted the arbor vitae bushes at the entrance to the back garden. The mud dauber wasps were unhappy, as they had begun to look upon the holes I dug and watered well for several days as their personal mud mine. They are building their little channeled home in the shed. I bought some wasp spray today. I hate to evict them, but it's too scary to duck into the darkness of the shed and not know what's buzzing around.
The frame between the bushes is for the mosaic that's lying in the grass beyond it.
The lattice that was installed a few days ago has really changed the look of the yard. We used the style with smaller openings on the stairwell railing in hopes of keeping some of the autumn leaves from blowing in. It gives that area a nice finished look.

Here is a better picture of the mosaic sunburst. The tomato props on the fence are metal pipes. As the tomatoes grow, I'll use bands of cloth to tie them to the pipes. It looks nicer than tomato cages, I think. The "rock" edging the raised tomato bed is concrete from the old gate that was dug up to make room for the arbor vitae. I have some rocks to fill in the middle part. It was nice to be able to reuse what would have gone to the landfill.

Two of the lattices went up by the kitchen garden. [I'm calling it that because it has edibles planted in one section. :) ] At the base of the one on the left you can see the trumpet vine peeking out of its protective collar. It has a little way to go to reach the lattice. When it gets a little taller, I'll add some strings for it to use as a ladder. There is nothing planted under the one on the right. Instead of using a 4x8 foot lattice and trimming 2 feet off so it wouldn't stick up over the 6 foot fence, I had them cut in half, so each section is 4'x4'. I think it will work just as well, and at half the cost!

This section of lattice is on the north side of the yard, by the screened porch. The Autumn Fragrance clematis is growing in its protective collar. I marked it with a circle so you could find it in the dirt.

The last of the trellis/lattices is in the northeast corner, which is becoming very oriental. I had the handyman put it at an angle to soften the look of the fences meeting. I think it will get a trumpet vine. The metal cranes came from the farm store, on sale. (I'm jumping ahead here, but I want to tell you about the half-price lilies from Walmart. I just happened to see them on sale this afternoon and bought up a whole bunch. The area in front of the cranes will be planted with the lilies and hostas. If it doesn't rain in the morning, I'll get them planted.)

This sun caught Lloyd's eye at Big Lots several weeks ago. He said he didn't need it, but he kept mentioning it, so I got it when I was in Sedalia a few days ago. The picture doesn't do it justice. Looks as if it's skimming along the back fence.

I got another piece of yard art at Big Lots, the metal flowers above the shed door. The plain bulkiness of the shed has been annoying me. The flowers help soften it a little bit. Sorry for the blurry photo. There are three 18"x8' strips of the small lattice left over from the stairwell project. I haven't figured out what to do with them yet, so they're temporarily resting against the shed wall.
I thought I was caught up on the picture taking, then Lloyd moved the two large Mexican urns to the area between the kitchen garden and the fence, where the stones are. They block the view of the rainbarrel as you enter the back yard. Its presence was annoying him. You'll have to wait to see them, though, as it's now too dark to photograph.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Day with No Photos

Today got away from me! I managed to plant the living wall this morning, dug the holes for the arbor vitae (no mean feat, as one hole had some serious concrete left from the gatepost that used to be there), then supervised the workers who came to install the lattice on the fence and the stairway railing. Lloyd cut some wood to frame the flagstone area between the arbor vitae. I put a couple of gallons of water into the holes and let it soak down, so the ground will be moist when we plant them tomorrow.
Then it was off to Sedalia, a haircut, lunch, and a stop at Big Lots with NJ. At BL, I snagged a couple of metal wall art pieces -- one for the back fence and one for over the door of the shed. By the time we got back, there was time for a little yard cleanup. After supper we headed over to the farm store and got a dozen bags of cocoa mulch, showed off our progress to some friends who stopped by, and then watered everything well.
In the morning, I'll start weeding and mulching in the front, which gets the most sun, and then work my way around to the back yard, which is shadier and doesn't dry out as quickly.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A New Look

Every day in the garden brings a new look, but the new look of the title refers to the blog background. It comes from Hot Bliggity Blog free blogger backgrounds for the cool peoples. You can reach the website by clicking on the little bar in the upper left corner of the screen.
The new look in the garden today includes many plants. Two rectangular planters were added beside the front steps. They were intended for a baker's rack on the screened porch but turned out to be too big. They are planted with dusty miller and cardinal flowers (lobelia x speciosa) "Fan Scarlet". I used Miracle Gro's soil with the moisture beads, as this area gets hot sun every afternoon. I'm hoping the moisture beads will keep them from drying out too quckly. Just below the steps, on the left side, is a salvia "Eveline"; it is replacing one of the plants from Michigan Bulb that didn't make it.

On the left side of the porch, where the hollyhocks are, I added an echinacea "Pink Poodle" (red circle) and nepta "Blue Dragon" (blue circle). Inside the yellow circle are three hollyhocks. The larger one is from Michigan Bulb; the two smaller ones are from seed. I have no idea what the tall leggy flowers in the center are. The ID stick was missing from the pot. They have lovely white flowers. [Click on the photos to enlarge]
To the right of the porch I planted two baptisia "Carolina Moonlight" (red arrows) and three amsonia hubrichtii "Bluestar". I'm not familiar with these, but they should grow to about three feet tall by 30" wide and effectively block the gas meter from view. Inside the red box is the butterfly bush. It still doesn't look like much, but it has added some new leaves.

Moving to the back yard, I finally planted the four lilies I got on sale at Walmart weeks ago (red arrow). The only ID on their little tag said Lily, pink. In the foreground are three heucheras (coral bells) I got at the nursery sale last Friday. From left, they are: "Miracle", "Berry Smoothy", and "Lime Rickey." The stick in the background (yellow arrow) is one of the witch hazel bushes from Michigan Bulb. It's leafing out nicely. The other two aren't as robust; one has some leaves, smaller, and the other seems to be dead, but I'll leave it where it is for a while, just to be sure.

In the peninsula end of the Maple Island, I added a columbine (yellow arrow). I don't know its proper name, but I'm sure it will be lovely all the same.

Have you noticed something depressing about these pictures? The flowers seem to be awash in a sea of gray: dried dirt, dead grass. I think I'm going to have to break down and start mulching the areas that are planted. I was hoping to avoid mulching, and maybe I can cut way back on it next year, as the plants get their growth, but this year I think it is a must. I hope I can find enough mulch so that it can all be the same kind. It's getting a bit late in the season and the stockpiles at the farm store are dwindling.
I added eight sweet basil plants to the little kitchen garden bed. They're lined up along the soaker hose on the backside. I don't recall if I mentioned the four yellow pepper plants just to the right of them. They came from Walmart and were planted a few days ago.

Despite all of this planting, there are still a few in their pots. I took the begonia out of the turtle planter and put in a creeping phlox plant. The other small plants will go into the crevices of the wall itself. I'm going to stuff more of the Miracle Gro potting soil with moisture beads into the cracks in hopes that they will be able to root into the dirt mound behind the wall before they dry out and die.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Morning ... a Surprise!

The heat wave broke last night. We should be in the low 80s today instead of the mid 90s. I'm happy about that. I got out this morning and planted the daylilies along the north fence. The shadows in the early morning pictures make it difficult to see, but there are four clumps of lilies spaced along the board fence. The three nearest are the same, a burgundy color. That large clump broke into three pieces. The other clump is much smaller. I could have divided the clumps even more, but the grower suggested planting them as is for now and separating them in the fall, when the plant begins to go dormant. I'll do that after Labor Day, when we pick up the other daylilies from the farm. These are the hybridizer's didn't-make-the-cut rejects. This is the burgundy lily. Its petals are narrow and star-like. It shows up a bit red on my monitor. The petal touching the bottom of the photo at the right looks to be nearest the right color.

This is the yellow one. This photo is a bit green. In real life, the blossom is a beautiful clear yellow. The blue tape is how the plants are marked for digging. You go up and down rows and rows of plants to choose the ones you want. They're marked by one person with your name on the tape and dug by another.

You may have noticed a bunch of greenery in the first photo, along the fence at the right. I saw it for the first time today for what it is: poison ivy! I did a round of weed killing before I started planting this morning, and this puppy was hit with both RoundUp and Weed B Gone. Last year there was a small poison ivy vine on the big oak tree, but Lloyd managed to kill it off.

The main reason for the killing spree this morning is this vine. It has heart-shaped leaves, grows about 6 feet a day (it seems) and seems impervious to RoundUp. I'm hoping the 2,4D in the Weed B Gone will do the job on it.

This is the infected part of the yard. The main body of the vines is on the other side of the fence, so I sprayed all of that, too. I want to plant decorative grass along the fence here, but there's no point in doing that until the vines are gone.

This is the grass that will go in that corner so that something else can go here, beside the shed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lilywood Farms Adventure

It certainly was an adventure! Check out this blurry photo of the GPS in NJ's car. See where the bridge is? See where we are? If you didn't know there was a ferry at this point, the image would be pretty scary! This 1933 something-or-other was ahead of us to board the ferry.

Here's the reason for the temporary ferry service in Glasgow, Missouri: a new bridge is being built to replace the decrepit one. I was used to White's Ferry at Poolesville, Virginia. The boat is called the Gen. Jubal A. Early. The fare there is $4 one way/$7 round trip. The Glasgow ferry is $8 one way! I was amazed at the price difference. But, that said, any day with a ferry ride in it can't be all bad. :)

We wended our way through Glasgow and out into the countryside to Armstrong, Missouri, the home of Lilywood Farms. I was surprised to see how hilly the land is south of the river. Some of the roads were like roller coasters. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! NJ was a good sport about waiting while I stomped around in the lily patches. She was waiting in the car for me to get my purchases wrapped up and snapped this shot of me in the side view mirror. It really doesn't tell you much about the day, but I think it's a cool shot.

Here are some of the many workers trimming and bagging clumps that have been purchased. The deal was, the landscape clumps that normally sell for $30 were on sale for $15, cash and carry. These are plants that are quite nice, but didn't make it into the gene pool of the hybridization program. They aren't registered, don't have names. I got one that is a pretty clear yellow and another, taller one, that is deep burgundy.
Here I am with a lily clenched in my teeth. I think the sun was getting to me by that time. Thanks to NJ, my foolishness was duly recorded.

Some of the registered lilies were on sale at 50% off for double fans. I bought 7 or 8 different kinds. These won't be dug until the plants begin to go dormant toward the end of summer. I can pick them up Labor Day weekend. That gives me time to decide exactly where each one will go, and I won't have to worry about them while we're away in August.

When I came home, I found the flowers here all gasping for water. It was 98F. I spent an hour giving them a good soaking. About 7 pm the cold front finally arrived. Now, at 9 pm, the temp is down to 81. Tomorrow should be a good day for planting.