Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Garden Tour

August 8 was the Fulton County Lakes Garden Tour and I was fortunate to have a chance to share my garden with those who attended. Here are some pictures that my husband took that day.

During the day 83 people attended. It was one of the rare days this summer when it didn't rain, and my helpers and I had a chance to visit with some wonderful people as we shared our love of gardens. I had a handout for the attendees which said:

The Casual Garden

This is a wild and wooly garden with a mix of plants (mostly perennial). Some have been gifts, some have been purchased and some just appeared-the hand of nature. Like any family, some are very well behaved and some are a bit of a problem, but each is loved. Well, occasionally I decide something is more trouble than it is worth and out it goes, but generally I find it hard to toss them out. When I divide them I either find a place for the extras or I give them away. Friendship gardens are the result of giving and receiving plants from others. Some of my plants have come from my mother, my grandmother, my Aunt Pink and numerous friends, wonderful memories that I am delighted to share with you.

I enjoyed the day and I hope the visitors did also.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Spiderwort is in full bloom. It is such a lovely shade of blue, so I took a chance and planted it several years ago even though it can become invasive. If you take care and put it into a location where it can't creep into a bed with your finer plants it is a very nice addition to the garden. Here in the woods we have a lot of hay scented fern growing (an invasive plant too), so I have planted the Spiderwort right next to the ferns and they are fighting it out and looking very nice together. They seem to like the same conditions and are living in happy harmony.

The 4th has come and gone, and still it is chilly and rainy. An occasional day of warmth and sunlight is a rare treat, but on the upside, I haven't had to do much watering in the garden. The mosquitoes seem to be loving all of the rain and are out in force. I imagine the death of so many bats in the northeast will lead to an increase in mosquitoes. I hope they will find a way to save the bats as they eat many insects each night and are fun to watch as the swoop and dive. My Astilbe is loving the rain too and will soon be in full bloom. I bought two new varieties this spring... August Light and Flamingo. They are enjoying the damp weather, so it isn't all bad.

Over the weekend our family was here and we took advantage of a break in the weather to go out for a ride in the boat. While we were exploring the lake we saw a bird soaring over the hills and realized, when the sun caught the white head and tail, that we were seeing a bald eagle. We watched it for some time and it finally disappeared behind the hills.

Today I saw a flash of orangish-red in the tree and finally saw that it was a redstart. What a beautiful sight when they flit through the trees! I did a search on these birds and found that often the males have two families, but keep them separated in different territories. They also stagger the mating so that they don't spend much time feeding two sets of young at the same time. It almost sounds like a soap opera. Perhaps birds are not much different than humans.

We are hoping that the forecast of two whole days of sun will actually happen. It will be a joy to get out into the garden again.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wrens are very interesting. First the male declares his territory by singing loudly from the trees in his area. According to the National Geographic book on song birds the Native American name for the wren is O-du-na-mis-sug-ud-da-we'-shi: "a big noise for its size". It is hard to miss its song as it is indeed very loud. It also has a scolding song which is described as "full of dark threats". In between its bursts of song the male is busy filling nesting sites with twigs and other material. At last a female arrives on the scene and he shows her around his nesting sites. She apparently thinks she can build a better nest, because once she agrees to live with him and raise a family she may tear apart the nest he has built and build her own. My, doesn't this sound like some humans? At any rate, we bought a cute little bird house to decorate the top of a 4"x4" post, and our resident male has filled it with many twigs. We never dreamed that this would be considered a potential nesting site. Now we are waiting to see if he can attract a mate.

Spring is rushing on and many of the early flowers have finished blooming, but there are always new ones to take their place. My wonderful Dicentra 'King of Hearts' is in full bloom and will bloom until frost. I have had other Dicentras such as 'Eximia' and 'Formosa', but 'King of Hearts' is my favorite. It has a nice compact mound of lovely foliage and is topped by many flowers in bright rosy red. I think I may divide it next spring. I planned to do that this spring, but didn't want to do anything to harm it. Still, I do want some additional plants, so I will have to take a deep breath and do it. I suppose I could do it in early fall, but it is hard to dig up something that is still blooming (it continues blooming until frost) so spectacularly. Perhaps I will buy a new one and divide that.

Does anyone have suggestions on killing off gout weed? I must have brought some in with plants I got from a friend and now it is taking over a large section of the garden. I know it will be difficult to eradicate, but I really need to do something or I won't have any garden left. HELP!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

This image is Bloodroot, the earliest bloomer of spring. It doesn't last long, but it is so beautiful. I try to make time to go out and just look at it waving in the breeze. It has seeded itself everywhere, so I sometimes have to reduce the size of a colony, moving some plants into the woods.

The Repellex tablets are all in, so the deer should avoid my hostas, daylilies etc. I discovered this fantastic product several years ago and went from my hostas being eaten down to the stems, to the leaves lasting all season. The advantage of the tablets is that since it is systemic the whole plant is protected, even the new shoots, and it lasts all season long. The tablets are extremely bitter and are a blessing in our deer populated area. Repellex makes a spray too, but the tablets are so handy and work so well. A number of sites carry them, so when I want to order more I go to Google and search for "Repellex tablets" and find the best price. I usually buy a container of 500, so it lasts for several years. I still spray liquid fence or some other deer protection occasionally, especially early in the season before the tablets are absorbed by my plants. Sometimes it is good to use more than one product, as deer seem to get used to whatever you use and will attack a plant that you thought was protected. It is a constant battle with the deer, the beavers (who were harvesting many of our trees and killing others) and the slugs. 

Several years ago we had a real infestation of slugs. You could almost hear the armies of them marching toward the garden after dark, and my hosta leaves were in shreds. I did resort to poison on a limited basis, but didn't like that solution. I also hand picked them after dark when they were out in force. I dropped them into a container of water with Dawn (I think any dishwashing detergent would work) and they died very quickly in that solution. I then thought of spraying a mixture of Dawn and water on the plants and found that it seemed to repel the slugs. For several years now I have been doing this, and my hostas stay relatively slug free until the end of the summer, when I get a little lazy and forget to spray. I am not sure if it is the spray or just coincidence, so if anyone tries this please let me know how it works for you.

I think this has been a fantastic spring with the flowering plants putting on an amazing show. The daffodils were the best that I ever remember, and the Olga rhododendron has been breath taking. I have also noted that from New York to Maine the lilacs are lovely. Let's hope the rest of the summer is as lovely.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The earliest daffodils are beginning to fade, but later blooming varieties are taking their place. It is amazing how quickly we go from bare ground that looks dead to an amazing show of color. I often wish I could stop time briefly when plants are at their prime, as it seems that there isn't enough time to enjoy them and then they are gone for another year. The daffodils have been especially lovely this year. There is also Bloodroot and Pulmonaria in bloom and the Bleeding Heart is just starting to bloom.

As I start working in the garden I find that one of my favorite garden tools is an old butcher knife that I got at a second hand store for 50¢. It works much better than the forked weed diggers for getting the weeds out root and all, and I also use it to loosen the soil when I am planting something not too large. With its long thin blade I just plunge it into the soil, give it a twist and the weeds come right out, or I use the same motion to loosen up the soil in a planting hole. If a large planting hole is needed I still rely on my shovel, but the knife is great for smaller jobs.

Last week we had to relocate a snake that was having its lunch at the edge of a small plastic pond we have near our deck. It seems the snakes find this a fine place to pick up a frog dinner. I don't mind having snakes around, but once they discover the pond I toss them into a pillow case and take them some distance away to release them. We have drained the pond, cleaned it and refilled it, so we are ready for the season. There are at least two frogs living in it right now. One year we had a population explosion of small frogs, and at one point I counted 27 in and around the pond. It reminded me of a Biblical plague, though they were well behaved and caused no problems. I wonder how many of them became a meal for a snake. 

It will soon be time to treat the plants that are deer favorites with Repellex. More about that next time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well, the snow and ice are gone (mostly), the daffodils would like one good shower and are about ready to spring into action, and we are back from the land of sunshine. As I look at the garden I realize how nice the areas look where I cleaned up in the fall. I know that it is recommended that we leave some of this dead foliage in place to provide insulation during the winter, but I must admit that it seems that the snow did a fine job of insulating, and it is great to look out now and see those areas looking so neat. I did do some trimming of dead leaves from my Lamb's Ear and a bit of pruning, but one large section of the garden looks really neat. The rest, by comparison, seems to be screaming for attention. I think I have my work cut out for me. 

Today will be a good day to plant the pansies in baskets and put them on our entry stairs. I have never understood why they call people who are wishy washy pansies. If there was ever a hardy plant that can withstand harsh weather it is the pansy. Their faces are smiling come rain, snow or cold weather. 

I also have many geraniums to pot up. Last winter when I trimmed my mature plants I used the trimmings to start new plants. They are looking great now and are ready to be put into individual pots. My geraniums seem to thrive on neglect and do much better when I keep them fairly dry. My problem, when I go away, is plant sitters seem to want to water them too much and they get pretty droopy. I sometimes forget to water them for a couple of weeks at a time and they do fine. Of course summer is their favorite season, as you can see from the photo.

I was in the café at Barnes & Noble the other day and saw a lady reading a garden magazine. I said, "Are you a gardener?" and it was as if a dam broke. She spent the next five minutes telling me about her gardens. Her enthusiasm was fantastic and makes me even more excited about the start of another season of growing and tending my garden.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Olga, the pink cloud in the garden 

Well, it is pretty hard to get into the garden frame of mind when the snow keeps piling up and the temperature goes down to -16˚ at night, but I will have to admit that visions of spring do dance through my head. On the positive side, all of this snow has covered most of my rhododendrons, so they will be spared the winter burn that the icy winds inflict upon them in snowless winters.

Rhododendron leaves actually tell you a lot in the winter. On cold days they let me know, without going out or looking at the thermometer, just how cold it is. those curled up droopy leaves say it all. As soon as it warms up they react and their leaves tell me it is fine to venture out.

Over the years I have had good luck rooting rhodie stems, separating them from the parent plant and transplanting them to a new spot. I learned this trick by accident when several branches got buried in damp leaves for a year or two. When I saw the roots that had formed on these stems it occurred to me that this was a good way to get some new plants. It has worked like a charm. Sometimes the new plant doesn't take, but just as often it does, and it is such a feeling of success to see more and more rhodies through the woods. Some years I have flowers and some years I don't, but I love the plants so much that I am happy to have them for the foliage. One that I can count on to bloom every year is Olga Mezitt. In spring it is so covered with lovely pink blossoms that it looks like a pink cloud. Right now there are lots of buds covering my Olgas, so if the deer don't nip them off (they did one year) they should be a beautiful June.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tree Toad and Grasshopper At Home In the Daylily

I have been thinking about the mission statement that Helen Yoest suggested on her site . I have decided that my mission in 2009 is to "Emphasize plants that will attract winged creatures to the garden and to take time to pause and enjoy watching them". The birds and bees are always there, but often I am so busy doing things that they are just in the background, and I don't really see them. Once in a great while I sit in the Adirondack chair and really look at what is happening in the garden. Those are the treasured moments, and I want to experience more of them in 2009. The picture above is an example of what you might see if you take the time to really observe your garden. the little tree toad moved to a new daylily blossom each day. Perhaps the flower was attracting insects for the toad to eat. Catching the toad sharing the flower with a grasshopper was a bonus.

I am being selective in saying that I want winged creatures as this omits many of the visitors to the garden, but I will have to admit that it is hard to enjoy the beauty of animals like deer when I see them munching one of my prize hostas. I was aghast a year or two ago when a rabbit chewed off my clematis about two inches above the ground. It didn't eat any of it, but the clematis was done for. That rabbit also chewed off my amsonia and left the stems lying on the ground. For the most part the critters with wings don't destroy anything, so I welcome them. Oh yes, I don't hope for any Japanese Beetles to visit my garden, but they seem to prefer my neighbor's garden as she is growing plants more to their liking.

With the temperature at 3˚ the Adirondack chair is currently empty, but it will be waiting to be occupied next summer. I can hardly wait. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

After reading Kathy Purdy's idea of a mission statement for your garden I began to think about some of the high points in my own gardening. I recalled one morning when I was potting up some plants in the driveway. I was on my knees overlooking the garden and bird bath pictured above when I saw a humming bird fly up to the spray from the fountain. After dancing around it for a few seconds he flew into the spray several times and then alit on the edge of the bird bath and dipped his breast into the water several times. I was in awe as I watched this wee creature taking his bath. Since then I have had them fly up when I am watering the garden. I quickly change the nozzle so that it sprays a fine mist and they seem to delight in flying into this mist and then sit on branch and preen. They seem to know that I am doing this for them... at least that is what I like to think, and for a few moments we seem to be communicating. It is breathtaking to say the least.

So, with snow outside and thoughts of summer in my head I wish you all a very wonderful 2009. The days are already getting longer, summer will be here in no time. Happy gardening.