Friday, April 26, 2013

Go Ahead and Lie

It's a truly gorgeous spring here in Central Pennsylvania-- cool, clear, everything blooming at its proper time and in a gratifying manner-- ken ahora as my rabbi friend would say.  I have been off these two weeks and able to fuss lovingly over my front garden and it looks dear, even if my color-conscious fifth grader pointed out that I need to snip 2 red peony flowered tulips that somehow made it among the pink and lavender.  May 6th is the day when I get my 10-12 foot trees.  I have been eyeing my 9' ceilings and realizing how tall that is, although dwarfed by the 60X100 backyard and of course 60,000 sf of nursing home, they won't look so impressive.
My bit of perennial garden with the dogwood about to bloom.

Speaking of which, the nice young fellow from the township delivered my 8 yards of leaf mulch.  By way of being social, he told me how awful the nursing home looked, how rude it was of them to put it that close, and how it didn't even look like it was going to be a nice building.

I much prefer my husband's cousin who pointed out they would be quiet neighbors and it's not like some guy would be back there dismantling his boat.

I don't mind kids or dismantled boats really-- I like to see people living versus existing in their separate and super-tidy little divisions.  (Admittedly when we get to the beer can and neglected dog phase of living, I'm not so into it.)  We decided that we wanted to live in town where our kids could walk to school events and the pizza parlor.  My husband, who doesn't see well enough to drive, can walk to work and his consistory meetings at church.  I can walk around town and enjoy the 19th century buildings-- it's not all squeaky clean subdivisions leading no where in particular.  I wanted my house my way.  I picked every door knob and light fixture, it's beautiful to me, and it works great for family life. But of course a building lot in town is incredibly rare. I took the first one to pop up even though I knew a nursing home was planned for in back of it.  I figured I'd squint and hope for the best.  What I got was not the best, but I'm getting sort of resigned.  More or less.
My nice house.  With water bucket in front.  Spot the nursing home!

Now I have a river of leaf mulch and a raft of good intentions.  It's Friday!  The sun is out!  Spring's here!  In two weeks I'm getting 5 Vanderwolf's Limber Pine, 1 Edith Bogue magnolia, 1 Hoopsi Blue Spruce, 3 Canadian Hemlock, a bunch of Twist and Shout Hydrangeas and some boxwood and azaleas, plus some grading and tree-moving! It's all good.

Ah, there it is!

After all:  It's not that much mulch!
The nursing home isn't so bad!
In  the words of the song-- "Lie to me, I promise I'll believe!"

PS The UPS guy made a point of asking me, "Are you happy about what they're doing behind you?"
Why are you saying that to ME?  How about you say it to the Township, huh?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

BBC Talks Cottage Gardens

This guy is adorable (not forgetting part 2).

Further garden developments (can you tell I'm off work this week?)

1. I cruise the nurseries on a near daily basis.  This has its dangers.  I decided not to buy the sixpacks of angelonia, even though they are a Good Deal, because of course it is absurdly early and I will have to hover and they won't take off anyway until it gets warmer.  But-- what if other people buy them out from under me?
     1a. My husband who likes to do nice things me kind of twisted my arm.  So I brought them home.  I did resist the Drift roses for the South bed until I make up my mind.  Also they are expensive-- $22 each, ouch.

2. Impatiens sales are much reduced and all blanketed with Downy Mildew warnings.  A shame.  I haven't planted impatiens in years though I used to love them-- do we get too grand as gardeners for that sort of thing?  Is there a scale, perhaps, like a thermometer-- impatiens and meatball yews on the bottom, with epimedium and species peonies in the middle, and something so esoteric and fabulous at the top I don't know what it is? Maybe we circle back to impatiens and meatball yews.

3. My Jupiter's Beard seedlings are probably defunct for a reason too icky to mention. (Cats peed on them. They are sitting outside till I see if they recover.)

4. Walmart doesn't have anything interesting.  Not that I was looking.

5. Still no mulch.  I don't think there is any mulch.  I think the township is going to have to give me back my 50 bucks.  Perhaps the mulch men have been recalled home to clean their rooms.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's in Bloom

Tete a tete daff, which I like for the less obtrusive fading foliage, and my Wegman's hellebore which seems very happy there.

I did plant some Angelique, yay me!  Rhodie still teasing me.

Birkwood Viburnum = bliss.

Kerria looks nicer since I pruned, I think.

Brunnera from a neighbor.

Bleeding heart starting to think about it.
Divisions seem to be thriving.  The Heritage rose I moved may not be dead, but it looks God-awful.  Still no damned mulch.

1. Why are the new leaves on my Walking on Sunshine rose so pale? to wit:

2. Do I want to find another home for the groundcover butterfly bush I bought last summer and put drift roses there instead?  Will this draw unwanted attention to the trellis around the airconditioner?
3. WHAT GROUNDCOVER for the South foundation bed??? Geranium Rozanne? Bunches of catmint?

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Ignore this post.  I have a 20' X 100' or so strip at the side of my property in full sun.  It is in a stormwater easement so I was cautioned not to put trees there.  Others have advised me I should only worry about putting expensive trees that might have to be cleared.  Anyway, large shrubs are not trees, technically, are they?  And think of all that beautiful space to put fabulous things in.  It is all that is left of what was once 8 acres of amazing meadow, now glazed earth and nursing home.  Some ideas:

sweet bay magnolia
bottlebrush buckeye
magnolia little gem
bayberry, either Northern or Southern
Knock-out roses
Limelight hedge
various butterfly friendly big perennials like Eupatorium and Agastache

Not all together, mind you.  An either/or sort of thing.  Think I will need to get some help with this from either one of my landscape folk.  Originally Erica of Highland Gardens planned for creature-friendly natives on the lower, wetter portion, and a more farmhousy/flowery look at the top-- a row of small crabapples and a bunch of Miss Kim lilac and peony, if I recall correctly.  Hmmm...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Comparisons Are Odious

Will I ever get used to it?  Maybe in another six years.  Ah well.

Last summer

This spring

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.  I want to talk about my side bed.  A recap:

I was thinking caryopteris fronting the Limelights, as they should bloom at the same-ish time, but there is most certainly not room and I don't want to make the bed much wider.  I am thinking of scraping up a $300 order from North Creek Nursery (that's their minimum... hopefully they have a don't-ask-don't-tell policy regarding whether or not you are actually a wholesaler.)  A lovely carpet of Geranium Rozanne might be effective there, what do you think?  Like so?

Could extend the geraniums as groundcover the whole way down.  That takes away the possibility of Drift roses, of course.

Note to self:  I divided a few daylilies, geranium, and some of the astilbe.  We'll see what we get.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

In light of depressing national events.

In more cheerful news, the Knock Out rose I cut back severely has shown the stern stuff it's made of-- click and you can see tons of new shoots.

So much is ready to pop-- Kwanzaan cherry tree, viburnum, rhodie, kerria.

Much edging done by me.  So much easier after a rain.

STILL waiting on my mulch.  "Sometime next week" they tell me.  I think those township guys spent a lot of time assuring their mothers they really were going to clean their rooms.

Monday, April 15, 2013


and be conquered.  I know about division, having read about it often in the multiple thousands of pages of garden reading I've done.  I've done little, if any, in practice.  My plantings are six years old.  I tackled a hosta.  Oof!  That's a lot of work!  The poor butchered hosta.  We'll see what it does.  Only 20 or 30 hosta, daylilies, daisies, and catmint to go.

Butchered hosta and my awesome flowered boots

We did oodles of work this week, including planting 100 Vinca Miss Jekyll starts (did I say that already?), some edging, which I find very slow work though reasonably gratifying, staining both sets of steps in time for it to rain today, and dismantling and giving away the massive cedar playset to a family with a small child.  The space is almost ready for Brian to work his magic in May.  I potted up the rest of my vinca (the rest is Bowles) to use as groundcover when he's done.  Brian's providing some plumbago and I'm eyeing perennial geraniums and possibly kinnickinnick.  We also helped weed, plant potatoes, and mulch at the community garden.  It was a glorious day yesterday, a lovely weekend really.

A day for leaping like a gazelle.  At least for those of us who can.

I have much indoor work today, it's raining a bit.  But all I want to do is garden, think about gardens, stare at my garden, stare at other people's gardens, and perhaps look at garden blogs.  Is there a problem with that?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Snapshot: Early April

These are boring pictures designed to help me plan for this year and next.  Sorry!

One of the virtuous and beautiful PJM rhodies flanking the walk.  Growing slowly, but growing.

Where I moved the rose to.  My idea is possible to get some more dwarf butterfly bush Petite Bleu as a groundcover.

Where I moved the rose from.  Too much shade?  Note how we hacked the New Dawn back.  Not sure if I will get flowers this year, but it was trying to eat people on the path.  Question:  should I mass some hydrangeas here?  Wedding Gown, maybe? No-- I think I want to keep it for foxglove and delphinium which I will probably have to treat as (expensive) annuals.

The New Dawn last year.  Some foxglove which do not want to naturalize.  The Knock Out before I cut it waaaay back.  We'll see what happens.  Say, that's pretty, isn't it?

Another shot of the highly chastened rose.  Fingers crossed.

This is the not so happy Rhodie that never seems to grow.  Move, when I have the prospect of other shade?  Shovel prune?

Little daffs-- yay me

This picture which I can't turn right way round is a crude representation of what will happen when Brian & Co. get here.  Left to right, there will be a Cayuga viburnum (not scribbled), Hoopsi Blue Spruce, three hemlocks.  In front of those there will be Twist and Shout Hydrangea and Encore Azalea.  Skirting those will be Franklin's Gem boxwood.  The idea is to make "spaces" and to draw the eye forward and not to the nursing home in the background.

Pleased with my front containers

Doesn't look like much, but this is Geranium Karmina.  The idea is to get a pool of them in this corner.  

The gravely off-balance Heritage that I moved to the South bed.  Also pruned out the dead wood.  We'll see.

Spring To-Do List

Much more fun than some of my other to-dos.

After a really bizarre unnervingly hot day-- 87 degrees, I'm told-- we had some thunderstorms and are back to more normal 60ish weather.  I watered most things yesterday since I worried about them leafing out in the heat and some of them are meant to be transplanted.  I am worried of course also that early May transplant will decimate my big witch hazels and lovely serviceberry... oi.  There's supposed to be more rain coming.

On to the to-dos:


  • edge beds
  • cut grass front
  • more weeding (have been virtuous so far)
  • transplant Heritage rose to S bed
  • get spade sharpened
  • divide some stuff-- daisies, hosta, catmint
  • take Appalachian Trail walk and try to catch some bluebells
  • rejoice at the decent smattering of little daffs in the front beds
  • be annoyed I didn't seem to plant more Angelique tulips
  • take pictures so I can fill in early blooming bits for next year
  • take up rocks and stack them out of the way
  • stain stairs 
  • rent a brush cutter for N of fence


  • plant catmint seeds-- think I will raise them on the porch, it's warm enough
  • ditto jupiter's beard
  • Call Oregon Trail groundcovers-- I went through the online order process Sunday but I have a sinking feeling it never went through :(-- Update-- I called and it did go through.  Next couple days, yay!
  • Call township and ask where the hell is my mulch.  More pleasantly than that, of course. Not till next week, grrrr.
  • email community garden friend and talk about ornamental border
  • email landscape arch and advise him of gate size and also slip in my worries about planting early May
  • plan new plantings carefully so that I don't fall victim to buying "trial plants" impulsively-- make a list and check it twice!
That should do it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Community Garden

Last spring our church started a community garden which ended up donated something like half a ton of vegetables to the local food bank.  (I hope people ended up eating those vegetables and that they didn't share the fate that sometimes befalls my own vegetables.)  Anyway, I don't know much about vegetable gardening but I have some haphazard and ill sorted knowledge of ornamentals, so I have gamely taken on the beautification part of the garden.  I have to plan a border about fifty feet long and three or four feet deep.  Our theme needs to be "cheap and cheerful" and fairly low maintenance.  Last year we planted flower seeds which were wonderful but tough weeding.  I am thinking more on the lines of flowering shrubs and sturdy perennials and it has to be Fabulous, because this is for the Lord, right?

I am thinking

catmint, which I have grown for years and definitely fits "easy, cheap and cheerful"
Eupatorium Gateway, which I haven't tried but looks gorgeous and bird/butterfly friendly
Knockout roses for obvious reasons-- rainbow or double pink maybe; a mix of red and pink can be lovely
Limelight hydrangea?  I love these to the third power, but I'm not sure if white is the right way to go... maybe aiming more for a russet/pink/blue/purple effect.  Perhaps one limelight.
Well behaved butterfly bush-- is there such a thing?
Purple coneflower seems like a no brainer
Perennial geranium-- Rozanne is gorgeous
Something silverleaved which requires research
Dark purple salvia.  Could also throw some annual blue salvia in there.
Some evergreens of course-- something smallish and mannerly but ravishing
Agastache is a little weedy but easy from seed, pleasing, and purple-blue

Clearly this calls for me to drive around all the nurseries in the area today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

If You Want Spring, You Gotta ATTRACT It

From my favorite comic strip character, Churchy La Femme (Pogo was before even my time, but I have reprints.)

I did a google image search for "underplanting Limelights" and saw a picture that reminded me of my own garden.  Then I realized it was my garden, linked from this blog.  The scary part is that it took a minute or so of careful study to determine that this was in fact my garden.  Yikes.

BIG NEWS:  As of early May, there will be earthmoving and the addition of large rocks and several bigger trees and shrubs to distract us from the Death Star, aka the gigantic nursing home which has finally landed in the acreage behind us.  It has taken me months and some pharmaceutical help to cope with the gradually rising tide of dirt cresting behind our house.  Spring is birdsong and also beeping and steamrollers and guys shouting.  Theoretically there will be a line of evergreen trees near the top of this 8 foot mound behind our fence.  Time will prove.  Meanwhile, I hired a landscape architect and there will be stuff getting moved and planted so that we will have at least the bones of a landscape back there.  Tabling my potager idea for the present.  Next house.

OTHER BIG NEWS:  I ordered 100 Vinca minor "Miss Jekyll" after much reading and agonizing and back and forthing.  Will it be invasive?  Is it not cool enough?  Will I be sorry?  I also got some Bowles variety for some clear reason which is eluding me now-- where did I mean to put that, exactly?

I put my wintered over wintergreen in the ground by the side steps, in the shade near the Bleeding Heart.

I bought three perennial geranium Karmina and put them in the southeast corner by the viburnum which are planted too damn close to the house.  I am all about groundcovers this year.  I am also about planning things rather them planting them haphazardly, forgetting where they are or that I ever had them when they promptly melt out.

I have 8 yards of leaf mulch arriving sometime this week.  Woof.

Hollies appear to have made it through the winter just fine.  I did spray them with Wilt Pruf.  Did some clean up and some timid pruning.  A lot of my soil became bare over the winter, which is Very Bad, I know.  Just waiting to blanket it with leaf mulch.

Late spring due to things being locked down by cold.  Looks like it's going to be creepy climate change warm this week.  As of now the cherry is barely in bud, the lilacs are showing just a little bit of budding, only crocus and tiny early daffs are starting to bloom for me though other, more protected locations around the neighborhood have daffs in full swing.

I'd like to do some dividing and replanting but it might make sense to wait until after this projected warm front.