Archive for Changing Seasons

Happy Fall-

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

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2017 Flower Show

The yellow flag iris was glowing almost, and has increased to almost six feet in diameter. I love this variety because the foliage stays absolutely beautiful until frost in the autumn.

The yellow flag iris was almost glowing and has increased to nearly six feet in diameter. When the flowers dry up you can trim out the flower stalks for aesthetic reasons, but the leaves should be left to absorb nutrients for next year’s crop of flowers. I love this variety because the foliage stays absolutely beautiful until frost in the autumn.

This has been a crazy couple of weeks: the street was milled and repaved, and major renovations have been going on inside the house. So, the garden again proves to be my escape.

Well, it’s not quite the Chelsea Flower Show, but I have to say this year’s flowers have been gorgeous so far!

I will be a bit sad to see this season pass and have to wait another year to see these beauties again, so I’m creating my own 2017 Flower Show in pictures to revisit. I hope everyone has been enjoying their own gardens this year! Here are some highlights from mine…

Always beautiful white iris was blooming early this year. With some of the blooms reaching 8 inches in diameter!

Never to be outdone, the always beautiful white iris bloomed early this year, with some of the blooms reaching eight inches in diameter!

I can't say enough about how much I love these peonies. This was the first year that I have had them, and they are  quickly becoming my favorite spring flower. These lasted more than a week after cutting them and bringing them inside!

I can’t say enough about how much I love these peonies. These were a gift, and this was the first year that I have grown them, and they are quickly becoming my favorite spring flower. They lasted more than a week in a vase, looking pristine after cutting them and bringing them inside!

Also after just a couple of years these hellebores are amazing. They have been blooming non stop for months! The color is wonderful- a slightly greenish white with pinkish edges to the petals. They are really graceful looking, and  getting more and more blossoms.

These hellebores are amazing. They have been blooming non-stop for months! The color is wonderful — a slightly greenish-white with pink edges to the petals. They are quite graceful and getting more and more blossoms. They like mostly shade with just a little filtered sun.

These alliums were really multiplying this year, from 4 to 10! I love the shade of purple. For those of you who dry flowers- these dry really well! I will soon cut them, and hang upside down to dry. They are so pretty stuffed into a Christmas tree during the holidays- looks like a star burst!

The alliums were really multiplying this year, from 4 to 10! I love the shade of purple. For those of you who dry flowers, these dry very well! I will soon cut them and hang upside down to dry. They are so pretty stuffed into a Christmas tree during the holidays — looks like a star burst!

The roses have been just loaded with blooms- until now- the rain did them in, but new blooms are forming and won't be long until they look like this again. Those with a sharp eye will see that my rose has a deep red rose blooming right in the center, this is because most new rose varieties are grafted onto hardy old fashioned roses which can sometimes send out shoots and bloom. I think its beautiful, but keep them managed or they can take over!

The roses have been just loaded with blooms — until now — the rain did them in. But, new blooms are forming and it won’t be long until they look like this again. Those with a sharp eye will see that my rose has a deep red rose blooming right in the center. This is because most new rose varieties are grafted onto hardy old fashioned rose root stock, which can sometimes send out shoots and bloom. I think it’s beautiful to have the mix of color — but keep them managed or the shoots can take over!

The lamb's ears is at it's peak, and will will look great the rest of the summer. I love how it's greenish white color makes the roses pop. Behind the rose the yarrow is starting to bloom. Yarrow is also a flower I love to grow for drying purposes.

The lamb’s ears is at its peak, and will will look great the rest of the summer. I love how its greenish white color makes the roses pop. Behind the rose the yarrow is starting to bloom. Yarrow is also a flower I love to grow for drying purposes.

 

This is the view out my french doors as I write this blog. I love to see everything with such full spring growth, the sense of renewal does my heart good!

This is the view out the french doors by my desk. I love to see everything with such full spring growth, the sense of renewal does my heart good!

In the evening light the azaleas shine.

In the evening light the azaleas shine along the front pathway. The pathway lights are low voltage and easy to install, and what a difference they make in the curb appeal!

 

 

As the sun sets and the lights come on I think its a magical time of day. Hope your spring has been full of flowers, does wonders for your happiness!

As the sun sets and the lights come on, I think it’s a magical time of day. It brings out the vibrant color on the rhododendren. I have been mixing my coffee grounds into the soil around the dripline of all of these acid loving plants, and the number of blooms this year is a testament to how much they like it. Great way to recycle the coffee grounds, too. Hope your spring has been full of flowers — they do wonders for your happiness!

As spring turned to summer the garden changes to various hues of yellow. Here the correopsis, yarrow and the Stella D’Oro lily bursting out onto the scene, with a backdrop of Nandinas (which discreetly hide the A/C units) that have color in the foliage and wonderful little white flowers. I love how long all of these stay in bloom, usually about a month and a half!

As spring turned to summer the garden changes to various hues of yellow. Here the correopsis, yarrow and the Stella D’Oro lily bursting out onto the scene, with a backdrop of Nandinas (which discreetly hide the A/C units) that have color in the foliage and wonderful little white flowers. I love how long all of these stay in bloom, usually about a month and a half!

 

This year on the deck I created some different styles in the pots and planters. These have a mix of flowers that are all in the same magenta color family- Zinnias, geranium, impatiens. They are really filling out now. If they seem to be getting too much sun exposure it's good to rotate them around each week to keep them healthy.

This year on the deck I created some different styles in the pots and planters. These have a mix of flowers that are all in the same magenta color family- Zinnias, geranium, impatiens and vinca. They are really filling out now. If they seem to be getting too much sun exposure, it’s good to rotate them around each week to keep them healthy.

I also have put my herbs into pots this year, they are closer to the BBQ and kitchen, which is very handy. I find that a half day's sun is the perfect amount!

I have put my herbs into pots this year, they are closer to the BBQ and kitchen, which is very handy. I love all the green, and of course the great scent. I find that a half day’s sun is the perfect amount!

Last, but not least is the window box over the front porch. Similar to the deck planters, I used a mix of flowers. All the same varieties as the others, but with the addition of some beautiful purplish/pink lantana to drape out over the front of the windowbox. It's a more simple, sort of cottage look, but maybe even more full and very summery looking!

Last, but not least is the window box over the front porch. Similar to the deck planters, I used a mix of flowers. All the same varieties as the others, but with the addition of some beautiful purplish/pink lantana to drape out over the front of the windowbox. It’s a more simple, sort of cottage look, but maybe even more full and very summery looking!

 

 

Well, that’s my 2017 Flower Show — hope you enjoyed it! Please let me know what your favorite flowers are this year from your garden. Happy summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Springtime Garden Reveal 2017

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Happy Spring- welcome to the garden!

Hi all! I think I am finally ready to show you some of the garden areas I have been working on since last fall. My goal was to open up the areas that had gotten a bit too crowded and simplify the overall design. While we walk through the yard, I’d like to show some tricks and tips that might help solve similar dilemmas that many of us deal with.

Closeup on the front corner of my yard. A row of juniper does double duty shielding the windows from headlights of vehicles rounding the corner, as well as defining the edge.

Closeup on the front corner of my yard. A row of juniper does double duty shielding the windows from headlights of vehicles rounding the corner, as well as defining the edge of the property.

I have never shown a closeup of this garden area on the blog before. It is the front corner of my front yard, where the cul-du-sac meets the street. Here on the corner a low wall of juniper bushes are very strategically placed. As cars round the corner at night into the cul-du-sac, this blocks the headlights, shielding the windows from the bright headlights. All you need is 3 or 4 foot high evergreen bushes in order to protect the house from an oncoming vehicle’s headlights. No one wants to feel like a search light is spraying the inside of your home, and this does the trick! This garden is layered with euonymous and liriope on the street side, and anchored in at the corner with a dogwood tree. We have an up-light that shines at night into the canopy of tree, which right now looks like a cloud of beautiful white blossoms.

Front walk has been opened up by removal of some larger bushes and layering in lower plant material in foreground.

Front walk has been opened up by removal of some larger bushes and layering in lower plant material in foreground.

Here is the updated front walk. I cleared out some of the jungle of large plants on either side of the Nellie Stevens holly and highlighted it by relocating the hostas to either side in a semi circle to add some visual depth  and light to that side of the walk. The liriope on the lawn side of the walk were all divided and will stay low. They will add some seasonal interest in the late summer with their purple flowers. These carry through the front of the other two garden beds on either side of the front door to create a nice flow from one garden to the next.

Here's the walkway from the other direction. You can see how it has a zig zag (not the best layout) I smoothed out the visual flow by running the liriope through all three of the front garden beds.

Here’s the walkway from the front stoop. The zig zag is not the best layout. I smoothed out the visual flow by running the liriope through all three of the front garden beds.

I inherited the layout of the walkway, but if I were to design it myself, I would have brought this odd zig zag section forward to match up with the rest of the walkway and made the whole walkway 4 to 5 feet wide. It’s always nice to be able to walk side by side with someone on a front walk, and being on the north side of the house, it would have been smarter to bring the walk out of the shadow of the house. If I ever win the lottery this is one of the things on my wish list – LOL!

 

 

 

 

Rounding  the corner the azalea is in full bloom right now, underplanted with a sea periwinkle to move your eye around to what's next.

Rounding the corner the azalea is in full bloom right now, underplanted with a sea ofperiwinkle to move your eye around to what’s next in the side garden.

This side of the east garden was opened up a bit removing some of the iris and lambsears and exending a few new waves of color into the existing design. In a couple of weeks this will be teaming in color.

This side of the east garden was opened up a bit removing some of the iris and lamb’s ears and extending a few new waves of color into the existing design. In a couple of weeks this will be teaming in color.

Moving around to the east side of the garden I have done a lot of work. There were many of the older perennials that needed dividing, and some areas requiring removal, like the lamb’s ears which never was happy in that location and the beautiful iris which were overwhelming their area. All is smoothed out, and in a few weeks this area will be teaming with color. I have simplified many of the waves of color on this side, and interspersed some of them with liriope and periwinkle which will provide more year round interest. I also want to suggest to those looking to brighten up an area that placing lighter colors or variegated plants in the dark recesses under trees will draw your eye in and create more dimension. Repeating the plant material, colors and varying the numbers of plants in a group is also helpful to pull your eye through.

One more thing worth mentioning in this region of the country and other drought-prone areas: limit the amount of lawn that is in your yard. For example, in my yard the side and back are fairly hilly, so the lawn is kept to a minimum through there, and treated more like a wide pathway flowing through the yard and the garden beds are much wider. In the front, the yard is flat, so we have kept a larger patch of lawn for activities– perfect for throwing a Frisbee, or a game of croquet. This limits the amount of water, nutrients needed, and even helps with the amount of time you need to spend mowing — bonus!

Moving around into the back garden, I’m really happy to see that all the roses I transplanted are really flourishing in the full sun. This is where I have amped up the flower power, and have sedum, orchids, astilbe, hellebores, ginger, lamb’s ears, yarrow, iris, peonies, lily of the valley and hummingbird vine. Many of these were started from gifts from my gardening friends! The idea was to have something blooming for as much of the year as possible. The only time there is a void is February, and don’t worry, I’m on it. I think I’ll add some crocus bulbs in the fall to make it year round. Will I ever be done? No, but that’s the fun for me!

 

A view of the newly revamped back yard border. It now has flowers blooming almost all year.

A long view of the newly revamped back yard border. It now has flowers blooming almost all year. It is half in full sun, and half in shade under the deck, so I’m able to have a wide variety of plant material.

Don't forget-- April showers bring May flowers! Here's a rainbow from the back deck from our last April shower-

Don’t forget — April showers bring May flowers! Here’s a rainbow from our last April shower – bring on the May flowers! Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment in time – waiting for the cherry tree to bloom!

Anxiously waiting for the cherry tree to bloom.

Anxiously waiting for the cherry tree to bloom.

 

Every year I’m working against the clock to have the yard looking at its peak when the cherry tree blooms. This year we have had an inordinate number of warm days, and I have almost finished — well, at least the front yard. It’s hard work, but the weeding, edging, mulching (90 bags!) and lots and lots of pruning are almost completed. We have lots of people who drive by and a few who take Easter pictures here when the tree blooms coincide with Bunny Day. I think this year I was lucky that this tree is a little behind the Tidal Basin cherry trees in D.C. The cold snap and late ice and snow storm that collided with them didn’t harm mine, just delayed it a few days. For those who are as in love with these trees as I am, this is a Kwansan variety. Its double flowers are magical!

 

The “Charleston pink” phlox that surrounds the tree is at its peak right now, and the tree is hours away from exploding with color, so this is just a teaser and I will post another photo when the tree is blooming — until then, Happy Spring!

 

Update, April 6th -  The tree has started to open. I’ll post a photo each day until it’s fully open. We had an incredible Spring storm that blasted through here just now with intense wind and the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen. Everyone in its path — stay safe!

You can see now how many flowers have opened in just a day. More to come!!!

You can see now how many flowers have opened in just a day. More to come in tomorrow’s update!

 

Update, April 7th – She is now in all her glory! It’s always worth the wait. I feel so happy to have her in my garden.

Full bloom! Always worth the wait! Happy Easter everyone-

Full bloom! Always worth the wait! Happy Easter everyone…

One more close up for posterity! How I love this tree-

One more close up for posterity! How I love this tree!

 

 

 

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Making the Most of the Weirdest Weather Ever

Wild weather going from 70's to 20's with thunder, snow and hail, then back to sun- breaking records almost every day.

Wild weather going from 70′s to 20′s with thunder, snow and hail, then back to sun- breaking records almost every day.

We are having some truly crazy weather here in Mount Vernon. Over the last week, we have had a daily high of 74 degrees and a daily high 38 degrees; snow, hail, sun, and rain; and three or four days with 60+ mile an hour winds! It seems like we are having records broken every day. You never know what will be in store from one minute to the next.

I’ve been making the most of the nice days and getting lots done in the garden. There have been some interesting things — and some not so — but it’s been great to just be outside soaking it all in. Here are a few things that I’m doing here that I hope will be a useful reminder to you in your gardens.

An easy fix for mature grasses with a bare center- read all about it here!

An easy fix for mature grasses with a bare center — read all about it here!

When we’ve had a nice afternoon here and there, I managed to get at least one or two ornamental grasses trimmed down. With more than a dozen out in the garden, this is the most time consuming of all of the cutting-back tasks.  Mature grasses always start to die back in the middle after a few years, and it can start to look like a doughnut with all the growth around the edge and bare in the center. I have a tip for working with these: If you have a saws-all you can use a long blade to cut around the inner circle and remove it. This will dull the blade, but just keep it for this duty — makes it so much easier to cut out the fibrous, tough center. The bare center then can be then easily be filled in with a chunk of fresh, new growth from the outer edge, making the plant good as new.

These grasses can grow to be more than three feet in diameter in just a few years, so an alternative would be to divide it in fourths (or more) and turn one plant into many. Gardener’s gold! I have seven of them trimmed down now, so I’m well on my way. And — once you have finished trimming down the tops, don’t forget to clean out the old leaves and debris that settle in to the center during the course of the previous year. It will make the crown of the plant much healthier, and as a bonus it will look much nicer, too.

First Spring flowers are already blooming! Time to scratch up the mulch and enjoy the fresh Earth scent!

First spring flowers are already blooming! Time to scratch up the mulch and enjoy the fresh Earth scent!

Now that we are starting to have warmer days, I like to stir up the mulch. It can become so compacted over the winter when it freezes and thaws. By stirring it up, it is much more porous so the spring rains can more easily soak in. It also makes the mulch look fresh and nice.

This is also the perfect time to check on emerging bulbs and perennials. I like to take the time to clear out the branches and leaves that have blown in, and give the garden beds a good edge for the upcoming growing season. Another tip — use your senses to evaluate your soil. It should have a beautiful fresh earth scent, as you stir it up. If it doesn’t, remember where and return with some nice compost to stir in when the soil has warmed. Ditto that if you see an area where rain ponds up, or there is moss or heavy clay.

The roses are already sprouting leaves in this warm weather- time for a major pruning.

The roses are already sprouting leaves in this warm weather — time for a major pruning.

Right now is the perfect time of the year to trim up rose bushes. Leave five or so main branches, and cut out any that cross. Make your cut about 12-18″ up the branch just above an outward facing leaf bud.

Last year I heard a new tip and really like it: sprinkle cinnamon on the soil surrounding the rosebush about a foot in diameter. It keeps fungus at bay. It really works. I had no black spot at all on the leaves of the bushes where I did this.

On to a reminder about some of the ugly necessities in the garden. After 17 years, we are replacing the A/C system. I wish they lasted longer, but even though we have ours serviced every year, there are only so many years of life in them. Here’s a tip I’ve mentioned before, but bears repeating: make sure to trim any bushes or hedging back so that the unit has at least a couple of feet of breathing room around it. You will have perfect air circulation around the unit and the technicians will have room to service it.  Thank goodness for that invention, makes life so much more enjoyable!

I also made some progress clearing out a space to dedicate for storing my recycling bins and trashcan. It’s a little more visible than I’d like, so I’m still thinking about what I might do differently to improve on it.

On an exceptional day last week, we took a field trip to Mt. Vernon Estate, just down the street. More on that next time!

On an exceptional day last week, we took a field trip to Mt. Vernon Estate, just down the street. More on that next time!

In between some more wild weather, we had a beautiful day to take a field trip to George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. I’ll be writing the next blog on some really inventive gardening tips from there that are still valid today!

I hope you’ve been able to get out in the garden on your good days, and may we have many more to come. Enjoy!

 

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Happy New Year to All-

Time to start putting those  dreams to reality. All the best to all the gardeners out there-

Time to start putting those dreams to reality. All the best to all the gardeners out there-

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Happy Thanksgiving to One and All-

Wishing a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to one and all-

 

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Thanksgiving Day 2016

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Time for Collecting Seeds and Preserving Blooms

Look closely at your plants, many will have seed pods that you can dry and save for next year. This begonia has really strikingly pretty ones in a teardrop shape.

Look closely at your plants. Many will have seed pods that you can dry and save for next year. This begonia has strikingly pretty ones in a teardrop shape.

 

Hi, friends — happy fall! I’m sorry I have not posted for a while. I’ve been busy finishing up projects, and glad to say that I have completed many. The ten new storm windows are installed, and the new flooring in my basement finished, too. Now I can get back to my favorite thing — gardening! I was asked to write a post on how I collect seeds and keep plants for the next year, and I am happy to do just that.

 

There are many plants that I’m saving this year by collecting their seeds and berries.

After collecting pods, let them dry out. Break them open and pop the seeds out. Save for Spring planting.

After collecting pods, let them dry out. Break them open and pop the seeds out. Save for spring planting.

I like to store my seeds in recycled glass jars. I glue silica packs to the inside of the lid to keep moisture at bay.

I store my seeds in recycled glass jars. I glue silica packs to the inside of the lid to keep moisture at bay.

The pretty Hyacinth bean vine produced literally hundreds of pods this year. The best way to save these is simply to pick them and let the pods dry out. The pods break open quite easily then, and I just store the seeds in a glass jar until next spring. Here’s a preserving tip that you might not know: Glue a silica pack on the inside of jar lids — it will absorb any excess moisture from accumulating inside the jar. I save the silica packs from old shoe boxes and other shipping boxes that come with them inside, so it’s a great reuse for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many bushes in the garden will drop berries that will sprout in the Spring. Transplant the seedlings from these to a safe spot in the garden, and you will be amazed at how quickly these volunteers will grow into great new plants.

Many bushes will drop berries that will sprout in the spring. Transplant the seedlings to a safe spot in the garden, and you will be amazed at how quickly these volunteers will grow into great new plants.

Many plants in the garden, such as the nandina, holly bushes, pyracantha and liriope, have berries that I just let fall into the garden. In the spring I cull the best sprouts from these to start new plants. It’s amazing how quickly they grow into beautiful plants all on their own with hardly any effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the annual flowers that I grow in the garden produce seeds. If you check the soil in the areas that you have planted with annuals, you will see volunteers sprout up regularly. I do this every year with the vinca that is planted by the driveway. Even the gorgeous heirloom begonias that I grow in pots will self-seed. It’s always a good idea to save some of the seed just in case they don’t return. It’s easy to find the seeds. They will either be in little pods or form inside the flowers.

I love how many varieties of vinca are now growing in my garden. Many annuals will drop seed throughout the Summer, and if the soil is not distrubed too much you will have many new sprouts in the Spring. I like to keep the strongest of the new sprouts and clear the rest.

Many annuals will drop seed throughout the summer, and if the soil is not disturbed too much you will have many new sprouts in the spring. I like to keep the strongest of the new sprouts and clear the rest. Each year I like to grow a different color vinca. It’s fun to see the blend of colors from previous years, growing up through the current year’s plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the more tender herbs and plants are easily propagated by taking cuttings that you can root in water then plant indoors to save over the winter months. Begonias and basil are two of my favorites.

Some of the more tender herbs and plants are easily propagated by taking cuttings that you can root in water then plant indoors to save over the winter months. Begonias and basil are two of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another way of saving begonias, ivy and many herbs (such as basil) is by pinching off a few branches and rooting them in water. In just a few weeks you will have enough roots to sustain a fresh plant that you can keep indoors over the winter months, and plant outside once spring comes. The same can be done with many of the hardy herbs, like chives, oregano and thyme that grow in a clump. Just divide a small clump (2″ or so), and plant to create a wonderful indoor planter that you can pick and enjoy for cooking all winter.

 

 

 

This is a huge bundle of liatris from the garden that I hung to dry and then arranged in a clay pot. I have many of these on top of the cabinets in my mud room.

This is a huge bundle of liatris that I hung to dry and then arranged in a clay pot. I have many of these on top of the cabinets in my mud room.

I hang lots of the flowers from the garden from peg racks to let them dry, and store them there until they make their way into a flower arrangement. It adds color, and I love having a reminder of Summer all Winter long. Here I have yarrow, oregano, pussy willow, bay leaves, lavendar and many others. Easy to do!

I hang lots of the flowers from the garden from peg racks to let them dry, and store them there until they make their way into a flower arrangement or wreath. It adds color, and I love having a reminder of summer all winter long. Here I have yarrow, oregano, pussy willow, bay leaves and many others. Even hummingbird vine that I twist into wreath bases. Easy to do, and it’s fun to be able to make things for gifts that you grow yourself!

 

There are some herbs and perennials that I cut and dry to enjoy all winter in bundles and arrangements through out the house. These will stay pretty — sometimes for years — if they are out of direct sun. I regularly dry the liatris, yarrow and even oregano when it’s flowering. I like to hang it in bundles from peg racks in the mud room to add a little color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are other perennials like the blackberry lily that I let dry and the seeds will easily shake off into a paper bag. Those will be saved in a jar as well for springtime planting.

Some perennials produce very decorative seeds after flowering, like these blackberry lily. Once the stems start to fade, I cut and dry them. It's easy to shake the seeds off into a paperbag and save them for next year's planting.

Some perennials produce very decorative seeds after flowering, like these blackberry lily. Once the stems start to fade, I cut and dry them. It’s easy to shake the seeds off into a paper bag and save them for next year’s planting.

Happy Fall Gardening Everyone!

Happy Fall Gardening Everyone!

 

I hope that you will try a few of these in your own garden. Seeds are like coins in a piggy bank. It’s always fun to have some “Gardener’s Gold,” and don’t forget to share your bounty with other gardeners — a jar of seeds for a Christmas gift is always fun and welcome!

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A Very Busy Second Half of Spring

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Our resident fox enjoying a nap and a sunbath.

Here it is — the second half of spring already! The garden here is bursting with activity, both flora and fauna. We recently spent a leisurely morning with our fox friend, our feral kitty, the crazy squirrel, duck family, chipmunks and many songbirds to name a few. It’s always an adventure around here!

With the nice weather warming the soil, the garden is growing quickly now, despite the fluke ice storm that deposited an inch of slushy ice two weekends ago. The trees are blooming all out of sync again. Strangely enough, the dogwood was the first to bloom and has held on to her flowers for almost a month.

This ice/slush storm was winter's last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new Spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

This fluke ice/slush storm was winter’s last hurrah. Most plants had started to get their new spring leaves, so this storm was most unwelcome.

We have finally turned the corner on frost and freeze warnings, so I’ve been planting herbs and veggies. It makes me so happy to see how many heirloom varieties are now being offered in the garden centers! I’m trying out many old fashioned varieties this year, so I will have some fun things to report back on.

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

The flowering trees were a welcome sight, and the dogwood is still blooming!

I’m so glad that the trees came through the winter alright in this region. We had such a strange autumn that many of the National Cherry Blossom trees bloomed around Christmas, about 1/4 of them! The affected trees didn’t rebloom, but thankfully they are all okay.

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

This patch of lily of the valley has doubled in size this last year. The scent is wonderful!

 

The same happened with many of the bulb flowers. The hyacinths that I have in my garden had sprouted at Christmastime, so they became freezer burned by the cold of winter and their flowers were all deformed this time around. Thankfully the daffodils had not gotten as big and were fine. On a better note, the patch of lily of the valley is looking the best that it ever has, and I’m so glad to report that it is covered in fabulously scented flowers. This is a fantastic ground cover with tons of old fashioned appeal, and will grow nearly anywhere, so keep that in mind if you are looking for something to fill a tough spot.

 

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can't wait to see the alliums in bloom!

Not in bloom yet, but this area is planted with large masses of flowers. I can’t wait to see the allium in bloom!

The allium bulbs are getting so huge as well. They were a gift at Christmas, so this is their first year. I will post some pictures when they start to bloom. I love how interesting the flowers are, and I planted them in a wave, between masses of iris, daylily, lamb’s ear and coreopsis. It’s getting so full that it should look amazing when they are all in bloom. While they are newly emerging, this is the perfect time to round up the edges on hosta, grasses, liriope, and lily to get them in shape for the new growing season. I like to do this now, rather than in autumn because they send out shoots underground over the winter months, and can start to look a bit messy otherwise.

 

On other fronts, I’m continuing to work on the storm window project, and I have a tip for you on fixing discolored brick. Years ago, way before we bought this house, someone had used some crummy paint on the trim work. It left long streaks of ugliness on the brick. I had tried all kinds of things to remove it short of sandblasting, and nothing could clean it off. My solution — more paint! I picked up half a dozen exterior craft paints in different brick colors and blended them. Just dab them into the offending areas and like magic the stained areas look fresh and clean. I have done this before on the front stairs and many other places on the house. If you didn’t know a stain was there, you never would. I won’t tell, if you won’t! Works like a charm. Give it a try!

BEFORE- ugly white streaks on the brick.

BEFORE: ugly white streaks on the brick.

AFTER- Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and east to do!

AFTER: Looks like new! Blending a few different brick colors and dabbing it on the stained bricks works great, and it’s easy to do!

I hope you are having a wonderful springtime and getting time in the garden. Here is one last photo, a bird’s eye view picture from the upper window looking out on the neighborhood trees. I just love how many bloomed all at once again this year!

Bird's eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

Bird’s eye view of the tapestry of colors of the blooming trees.

 

 

Spring Cleaning — Outside, Too!

The curly willow was the first tree to start it's new growth. This year it has doubled in size!

The curly willow was the first tree in my garden to start its new growth. This year, it has doubled in size!

This has been a very strange spring so far, with weather not being able to make up its mind between winter, spring or summer. There have been some really turbulent wind storms as well. Even still, I’m doing my best to get the garden and house in tip-top shape. There are many projects underway and inspections taking place. I will walk you through a few of the big ones that you might find helpful in relation to your own home and garden.

While I’ve been getting the perennials and bushes trimmed up and ready for new growth,  the cleaning outside has started from the top down.

Here's the before picture of our roof. You can really see the black streaks appearing.

Here’s the before picture of our roof taken at the end of summer. You can see the black streaks appearing.

 

It’s been five years  since we had our roof cleaned, and it had developed black streaks from algae and air pollution again. Last time only the north-facing front was grungy, but this time there were streaks on all four sides. The method of cleaning has improved greatly since the last time. Now the technicians spray the roof with a special soaking nozzle using a detergent that makes quick work of cleaning the shingles. This is far better because it does not damage or wear the roof like the machine scrubber of the past.

 

Here's the after photo- all clean and getting some squirrel damage repaired.

Here’s the after photo — all clean now and squirrel damage repaired. Now it’s good as new!

They also did an inspection and discovered 3 spots where squirrels had chewed up the shingles trying to get inside. We quickly had that fixed.  I recommend that everyone have their roof inspected each year. The damage on ours wasn’t visible from below, so we would not have even known until water damage became visible inside. That would have been much more expensive to fix!

 

Here's why I think everyone should get a roof inspection. This is where a squirrel chewed a hole right on the corner. You can't see it from below, so we wouldn't have known it was there.

Here’s why I think everyone should get a roof inspection. This is where a squirrel chewed a hole right on the corner. You can’t see it from below, so we wouldn’t have known it was there.

Many roofing companies will inspect at no cost and take pictures to show you damage that they find. Many thanks to the A Team Roof Cleaners, and Marshall Roofing for the repairs.

These are the 30 year old storm windows. Back then you only had one option where you could place the meeting bar, only in the middle of the window. On these windows that meant looking at it every time you looked outside- not pretty!

BEFORE— The 30 year old storm windows. Back then you only had one option of where you could place the center bar, only in the middle of the window. That meant looking at it every time you looked outside – not pretty!

I am also back on track replacing ten of the storm windows on the main level of the house. I’m always a “bring the outside in” kind of girl, so having proper windows is important to me. The former storm windows didn’t match up with the style of window in the house, so instead of looking out of a pretty wooden window, we had been looking at an ugly metal bar in the middle of our view. The new windows are great, and even come with a new coating that helps them stay clean — YAY!!!! I love that feature.

Anyone who is considering window replacement look at this option first. The new storms provide great R-value, and in our case were 1/10th the cost of a window replacement.

Here are the nice new storm windows- center meeting bar where it should be! And bonus being a special coating to help keep the windows clean!

Here are the nice new storm windows – with the center meeting bar where it should be. And bonus being a special coating to help keep the windows clean!

That’s a fantastic savings! We chose Larsen Gold Series Storm windows — I’m not a paid spokesperson, but I do believe in sharing my sources.

I also still need to scrub down the north steps in front of the house. I like using oxygen bleach and then rinsing it well. Makes the stones and the grout look like new. And this year, I’m determined to actually finish power washing the sidewalk. There’s always some touch up paint needed on the trim work. It all takes time, but in the end, it makes everything so much nicer.

IMG_0833Those of us who live in the Washington, D.C. area are very happily watching our national cherry trees blooming, and that means mine are not far behind. So as I wait on my beautiful cherry tree to start opening up, I’m checking off things on  my to-do list for this spring — hope that yours is on its way, too.  Happy gardening!

 

And Just Like That — SPRING!

Goodbye Ice and snow- we are ready for Spring!

Goodbye Ice and snow- we are ready for spring!

Goodbye ice and snow! Spring is popping! We shattered high temperature records already, and went from heat to A/C in the house on the same day. The groundhog was right — it’s an early spring. I’m ready, or at least I’m try to keep up. This last week I managed to get a lot of grasses, sedum, liriope, iris, rose bushes and some of the straggly nandina trimmed up and ready for the new growth. I’m more than half done, but this year many of them are already showing signs of new growth. Normally that doesn’t happen until much later in March or April around here. Mother Nature has been confused, most definitely.

After just a couple of years, despite lots of maintenance, there was a huge amount of rot in the wisteria arbor. Time for replacing!

After just a couple of years, despite lots of maintenance, there was a huge amount of rot in the wisteria arbor. Time for replacing!

 

We also had some pretty awful rot in the arbors that we built only a few years ago. Before we installed them, I primed them, put on two coats of paint, and then annually gave them another coat of paint, but they completely failed anyway, full of rot — very discouraging! So this time around, we used PVC instead of wood, and there will be no chance of rot again. It looks great! We were rushing to get this project finished because this is one of the arbors that the wisteria is trained on, and we wanted to get it finished before it started to open up for spring. Just made it!

 

The new and improved arbor- this one made with PVC instead of wood- no more rotting!

The new and improved arbor, this one made with PVC instead of wood — no more rotting! This one also has been made a little wider to give more sun protection below, and more room for the wisteria above.

This is really my favorite time to be outside in the garden. I love getting the plants ready for the season. Things grow so fast you can almost see it happening, and it feels so fresh after being couped up during the winter. The robins have been coming through en mass, and I have already seen nests being built, so I know I’m not the only one ready for spring! Here are some of the early blooms already making their debut in garden:

As soon as the snow melted the crocus appeared-

As soon as the snow melted the crocus appeared…

Followed quickly by the daffodils-

Followed quickly by the daffodils…

And now the hellebores are starting to bloom- so pretty!

And now the hellebores are starting to bloom — so pretty!

January 3rd – Is It Winter or Spring?

There is still a lot of new growth on many plants that would normally have gone dormant by now.

There is still a lot of new growth on many plants that would normally have gone dormant by now.

Well, it’s January 3rd and I’m already gardening! You know I can’t stay away from it for more than a few days.

We have had such a warm start to winter. Even when it has gotten cold overnight, the days are pleasant — so pleasant that here in the mid-Atlantic region, we have daffodils sprouting and cherry blossom trees flowering. Although it’s warm now, we will pay for it in February and March, according to the weather people. A classic El Niño with ice storms to come, so until then, I am getting as much done as I can and enjoying every minute in the garden!

I was a lucky gardener and received some fun gardening-oriented gifts for Christmas, too. A really nice gardening seat and tool tote, a pointsettia, a rosemary topiary and some beautiful allium bulbs. These were such thoughtful gifts! I spent this weekend planting the allium bulbs. Normally one would not do that this time of year, but because our temperatures have remained in the range you would expect an October day to be (between 50-70 degrees), I went ahead and got them planted. I just know they will be gorgeous this spring!

The pointsettia doubled in size this last month, and is loving the east exposure.

The pointsettia doubled in size this last month and is loving the east exposure.

I also finished getting the roses ready for winter. They were still blooming until just this week! The last of the leaves dropped, so I scooped them all up. Its a good practice to always do that, as the leaves can harbor diseases which can cause black spot on the next year’s growth if left on the soil below the plant. Better safe than sorry, so I collect them. I had a little bit of it on my older roses this last summer and tried something new: a spray of half water/ half spoiled milk, and much to my surprise, it worked! I removed the affected leaves, sprayed, and within a couple of weeks new growth had sprouted showing no signs of the black spot. Remember this for next year in case you see any. I love it when there are simple home remedies that work! And have no harsh chemicals, either.

Rosemary is a fantastic plant to have inside over winter, the scent is wonderful, it cleans the air and you can cook with it . How great is that!

Rosemary is a fantastic plant to have inside over winter, the scent is wonderful, it cleans the air, and you can cook with it. How great is that!

Inside the house, I re-potted my rosemary topiary and lightly watered the pointsettia. They both really don’t need much water this time of year, and both like bright light. I have the perfect east facing window that I keep the pointsettia next to, and in previous years this has proven to be just the right exposure. It even kept color long into March. I love to have the rosemary in my kitchen, and can’t resist brushing by it to release the wonderful scent. I often use it in cooking, and it is just so pretty, too! These are also natural air fresheners.

Looking forward to seeing what kind of weather tomorrow brings, but I’m hoping to get back out there in the garden. Hope to see you!

Happy Thanksgiving to All

This was the view of autumn leaves from my deck this year. They were so beautiful, but now a mountain of fallen leaves are in need of raking.

This was the view of autumn leaves from my deck this year. They were so beautiful! Now I have a lot of raking in my future.

Now that the mums have finished blooming, I have filled in the pots with boxwood trimmings from my yard. They make beautiful "plants" all winter long.

Now that the mums have finished blooming, I have filled in the pots with boxwood trimmings from my yard. They make beautiful “plants” all winter long.

I’m finishing the last of the winterizing and want to share a few tips that will add polish to the holiday curb appeal, and make the perfect backdrop for seasonal decorations. These will make a big difference for just a weekend’s worth of effort. And as an added bonus, it’s also a great way to work off some of that turkey with all the trimmings that we love so much!

First up is finishing the leaf raking and weed removal. Reach in and pick out all the leaves that have gotten stuck in the bushes and then do a final pass in the mulched areas of the garden and your lawn. This alone will make a huge difference in the appearance, but we aren’t going to stop there! Next, give the mulch a rake to loosen it up, and add extra if needed. Winter mulch tip: As you are stirring up the mulch, make sure to leave a space of a few inches between the mulch and the wall of your home. This will discourage the unwanted “guests” (mice!) from burrowing there.

Fill in gaps in the garden by creating "instant plants," just push small branches into the soil- simple as that.

Fill in gaps in the garden by creating “instant plants,” just push small branches into the soil. Simple as that!

Here is a row of "instant juniper" plants, where I removed the summer annuals. You'd never know they aren't actually growing!

Here is a row of “instant juniper” plants, where I removed the summer annuals. You’d never know they aren’t actually growing!

Perfect time of the year to give the clay pots a good cleaning before storing them away for the winter months.

Perfect time of the year to give the clay pots a good cleaning before storing them away for the winter months.

Not all of the "instant" plants are used outside- the extra ivy is in a bucket of water and will root over the winter. Ivy is a really good air filter indoors, so I love to have some inside!

Not all of the “instant” plants are used outside. This extra ivy is in a bucket of water and will root over the winter. Ivy is also a good air filter, so I love to have some inside!

Now that you have pulled out the spent summer flowers and have areas that might be looking a bit too spare, here’s one of my favorite tricks of the trade: I trim the bushes in the yard and use those trimmings to create “instant plants.” Just take the branches and push them into the soil about 6 to 8 inches. I use about a dozen small branches to create each “plant.” On either side of the driveway where I grow vinca in the summer, there are now juniper. They look great, you’d never know they weren’t actually growing. I also do this in the pots and window boxes to create small boxwood “plants.” This trick lasts for months, usually into February, and since I trimmed the branches from my own yard, its free!

Speaking of planters and pots, this is the perfect time to give the clay pots a scrub and dry them in the sun before putting them away for the winter months. I like to use a scrub brush or a kitchen scrubbie with regular dish soap for this job. They easily get rid of the grime on the pots and make quick work of the job. Find a good place for winter storage where they won’t freeze. The clay can be very susceptible to cracking apart when it freezes. The same scrub is perfect for all the yard tools as well. A tip for the shovels and rakes: Once they have been cleaned, a light coating of cooking oil or spray will help guard against rust over the winter.

The final crowning jewel to get your home ready is clean windows. Now that your yard looks so nice you will want to have fresh, sparkling windows to view all your hard work!

Enjoy!

Time for a nice hot cider…

A Quick Reminder Before The Freeze

Back to an old school watering can for now. Time to shut off the outside water for the winter months.

Back to an old school watering can for now. Time to shut off the outside water for the winter months.

What a beautiful day it was Friday! It is hard to believe that the weather is going to turn FREEZING in the next few days. Just a quick reminder to turn off your outside water spigots this weekend before the extended winter cold sets in. My Dad used to always call me and remind me to do this, so in his memory I want to send out this reminder.

Here’s how:

Turn the valve off from inside your home, remove the hose, then drain the remainder of the water out of the outside spigot. Remove and drain your watering wand or nozzle from the hose. Drain and coil your hose. This way if you want to use your hose in the winter it won’t be full of ice!

Outdoor shut-off valves are usually located inside the house opposite to where they are on the outside. Remember righty tighty, lefty loosey!

Outdoor shut-off valves are usually located inside the house opposite the spigot outside. Remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey! While you are at it, if there is space behind the water pipe, slide in some insulation batting (or a section of newspaper or cardboard) to add an extra layer of barrier from the cold and help prevent frozen pipes.

Once you've turned off the valve from the inside, open the outside spigot to drain the last drops of water.

Once you’ve turned off the valve from the inside, open the outside spigot to drain the last drops of water.

Drain the water from your hoses and nozzles so they won't be full of ice if you want to use them this winter.

Lastly, drain the water from your hoses and nozzles so they won’t be full of ice if you want to use them this winter. I like to be able to wash the car after it snows to rinse the road salts from it.

This is also the perfect time to bring in your terracotta pots and drain dishes for the winter- more on this one soon----- Have a great weekend!

This is also the perfect time to bring in your terracotta pots and drain dishes for the winter — more on this one soon…Have a great weekend!

Bringing Autumn Inside the Home

Sunflowers are one of my favorite fall flowers- I love to have them on the kitchen table to enjoy.

Sunflowers are one of my favorite fall flowers. I love to have them on the kitchen table to enjoy.

I hope this finds everyone enjoying the beauty of autumn. I feel like the rich colors of the season — golds, oranges and reds — are always so heartwarming.

It inspires me to bring those colors inside my home and display as many of my favorite pumpkins, gourds and fall flowers as I can. I use real, dried and artificial ones in bowls, baskets and flower pots all over the house. The more the merrier for me.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a bit of an obsession for those cute little gourds. I’ve been collecting them for years and love putting them out each fall. This year’s decoration is more casual and simple here at the house. Here are some photos of some of my favorites — hope you enjoy the autumn tour!

I love to change up the weathervane for each season. This time of year I surround it with gourds.

The weather vane gets something different for each season. This time of year I surround it with gourds.

My collection of paper mache gourds are used to fill all kinds of containers which I use on tabletops and as centerpieces. Whenever I see new gourd varieties this collection grows!

My collection of paper mache gourds are used to fill containers which I use on tabletops and as centerpieces. Whenever I see new gourd varieties this collection grows!

I like to have some flowers by all the entry doors to welcome visitors. This year I used beautiful deep yellow mums by the front door. My favorite gargoyle welcoming visitors, too!

I like to have some flowers by all the entry doors to welcome visitors. This year I used beautiful deep yellow mums by the front door. My favorite gargoyle is welcoming visitors, too!

By the kitchen door I have pansies, violas & mums in yellow, plum and burgundy colors. Most of my friends and family use this door so I always like it to look cheery.

By the kitchen door, I have pansies, violas and mums in yellow, plum and burgundy colors. Most of my friends and family use this door so I always like it to look cheery.

More pansies fill containers on the deck for entertaining outside.

More pansies fill containers on the deck to look festive for entertaining outside.

Back inside on the mantle in the family room I love to display the pumpkins with lanterns, ivy and more candles.

Back inside, on the family room mantle  I love to display the pumpkins with lanterns, ivy and more candles.

Adding a few of my chubby birds in the family room, too!

Adding a few of my chubby birds into the mix in the family room, too!

The living room fireplace has a fun new twist this year with the addition of some antique spools that I'm using to display pumpkins on top of. Reminds me of my dear friend who gave them to me every time I see them!

The living room fireplace has a fun new twist this year with the addition of some antique spools on which I display small pumpkins. Reminds me of my dear friend who gave them to me every time I see them!

A grapevine pumpkin with a spray of fall leaves and berries under a garden cloche sits on the coffee table.

A grapevine pumpkin with a spray of fall leaves and berries under a garden cloche sits on the coffee table.

Simply piled on a platter to add color in the dining room.

Pumpkins piled simply on a platter add color on the dining room mantle.

Who wants soup? I love all the pumpkin bowls and tureens at home shops the last few year. These have a lid to keep things hot.  I've used them to bake pumpkin custard, too- yum!

Who wants soup? I added these to my collection a few years ago. They have a lid to keep things hot. I’ve used them to bake pumpkin custard in, too – yum!

In years past we created much more elborate arrangements- this one was made by my Mom & I for her garden club event, but I'm feeling like a simpler style this year.

In years past, we created much more elaborate arrangements. This one was made by my Mom and me for her garden club event, but this year I’m feeling like a more casual style fits my mood.

And last, but not least a favorite table runner with pumpkins, and a trifle bowl full of gourds on the dining room table. I wish everyone a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving and hope this will insipe you to bring some autumn into your home!

And last, but not least a favorite table runner with a pumpkin motif, and a trifle bowl full of gourds on the dining room table. It’s not fancy, and I like the simpleness for everyday. Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving and hope this will inspire you to bring some autumn bounty into your home!

 

Summer Wrap Up — The Best of the Best

A beautiful start to the Summer of 2015-

It was a beautiful start to the summer of 2015

What a busy summer it was! We had such a great start — with a perfect amount of rain and  moderate temperature days — and then a completely different ending to the season. I’d like to say something nice about what happened the last half of summer, but can’t think of anything! Such a bad drought, terribly hot, very deep mud cracks filled the gardens, and almost all my perennials had to be cut down just to survive. I’ve never had to do that before — ever! Even still, there were high notes for the summer to report on, and some really fabulous new plants that I tried. On a better note, thankfully, this fall has had some beneficial rains, and things are green once again.

Close up on some of the amazing jalapeno harvst-

Just some of the amazing jalapeno harvest

Remember in the spring I talked about adding lawn clippings into the garden to renovate it and lighten up the soil? In the veggie area where I did this, I planted a few basil plants and a jalapeno pepper. I had promised that if the soil was improved with amendments like these, that it would pay off in a big way, and did it ever! I harvested 125 jalapenos from just one plant! Believe it or not, I am still getting new growth, with no sign of slowing down. The cooler fall temperature will eventually end its growing streak, but what a testament to simple soil amendments and how they can make such a difference in your garden.

An amazing number of peppers- 125- were harvested off this one plant.

An amazing number of peppers – 125 – were harvested from this one plant.

This hyacinth vine gets my top prize this Summer for it's beauty and hardiness.

This hyacinth vine gets my top prize this summer for its beauty and hardiness.

Here is a close up of the interesting pods which develop after the flowers.

Here is a close up of the interesting pods which develop after the flowers.

I gauge my garden “hits” on how many people who are passing by ask the name of a plant or comment about them, and this year’s biggest winner was the hyacinth vine I planted in the front yard. (It was purchased early in the spring at the River Farm Horticultural Center’s annual plant sale, and if you are ever in the Washington D.C. area when it’s going on, I highly recommend going to it.)  This vine was gorgeous throughout the summer and was covered in beautiful purple flowers, which then became purple pods. It thrived in the heat and the drought and grew like crazy. By crazy, I mean growing 2-3 feet a week! It reminded me of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk the way it grew so fast. I saved many of the pods, which are filled with seeds, and plan on giving them away to friends and starting a few vines for myself next year. It had an old fashioned appeal, and I think it would be a show stopper in almost any garden!

The caladium plants put on a show all Summer, and didn't mind the heat at all!

The caladium plants put on a show all summer and didn’t mind the heat at all!

I also received a lot of comments on the caladium plants on the front porch. I had never grown them before at the house. I was very pleased with how well they grew and what a beautiful focal point they became. They held their color and did well in the heat all summer and early fall. I have saved the bulbs and will see if I can re-grow them again next summer.  I’m hoping to have plenty of these to share too.

 

 

This is the third year I have planted vinca in this location. It does so well on either side of the driveway, and some of the previous years colors have self sown- love the mix.

This is the third year I have planted vinca by the driveway. It does so well here, and some of the previous years’ colors have self sown – love the mix.

Even the oregano was blooming and full in the early half of Summer.

This was a great summer for herbs. Even the oregano was blooming nearly half of the season.

The ivy that was growing in all of my planters had to be restarted from the the plant's crown after such a hard winter. It grew beautifully, and each one came back like new.

All of the ivy plants had to be cut back to the soil after such a hard winter. They thrived this summer and are better than ever!

If you are looking for a medium sized tree with year round beauty consider a curly willow. This has become one of my most treasured of all the plants in my garden.

If you are looking for a medium-sized tree with year-round beauty consider a curly willow. This has become one of my most treasured plants.

As always, I have to give props to the Knock-out roses. They gave constant color, and filled in beauitfully after a hard cut back in the Spring.

To close, I have to give props to the Knock-out roses. They gave constant color this summer and always make me smile!

The other plants that did fantastically well this Summer were the coleus, vinca, ivy, herbs, roses and my “pet” fav — the curly willows!

As we approach the midpoint of fall, this area is having an Indian summer. There was a frost a couple of weeks ago, and now the temperature is back up to almost 80 degrees. I am really looking forward to the beautiful autumn leaves and reporting back on some new varieties of fall flowers that I’m growing. Until then — hope you are enjoying the season!

 

 

 

 

A Walk Through the Garden

What a beautiful day it is to take some time to be outside, even if only for a quick trip around the house. I love the colors of the fall! Here’s what’s going on in my garden:

The neon shades of the nandina always make me happy.

The neon shades of the nandina always make me smile.

The trees are really starting to show color-

The whole landscape is shifting to shades of rust and gold…

I finally had the chance to divide all the liriope, and fill in the walkway- done!

I finally had the time to divide all the liriope and fill in the walkway. Done!

I think the variegated grass this year is the best it has ever looked.

The variegated grass this year is the best it has ever looked.

Even the mahonia leaves look splashed with Fall color-

Even the mahonia leaves look splashed with fall color.

And a quick look at the new uplighting in the garden- more on this soon!

The new uplighting in the garden — more on this soon! Enjoy your evening!

In the Pink

This time each year as I browse the local nurseries I am drawn to the pink flowers.  The color is just so soothing in the garden.  When it comes to my house, which is kind of a muddy red brick with white trim, the pinks seem to show up nicely against it. So, I guess I’m choosing pink for my color scheme this Spring — again! What color are you using?
Here is my Spring tour of some of the highlights so far:

The cherry tree was beautiful this year- even as the petals fell.

The cherry tree was beautiful this year- even as the petals fell and turned into pink snow.

I have lily of the valley under the deck which smells wonderful-

I have lily of the valley under the deck which smells wonderful.

Even the sunset at Easter glowed pink!

Even the sunset at Easter glowed pink!

This is a choke cherry bush in my back yard, now about six feet in diameter. They are native in this region, and have beautiful deep pink flowers. This one given to me by a friend which makes it even more special.

This is a choke cherry bush in my back yard, now about six feet in diameter. They are native to this region and have beautiful deep pink flowers. This one was given to me by a friend which makes it even more special.

There are lots of pink and purple pansies along the driveway.

There are lots of pink and purple pansies along the driveway.

The azaleas are just starting to open, but are loaded with flowers.

The azaleas are just starting to open, but are loaded with flowers.

OK it's not pink, but just wanted to show you how interesting the branches are getting on my smallest curly willow.

OK, it’s not pink, but I just wanted to show you how interesting the branches are getting on my smallest curly willow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The peartree was also pretty spectacular this Spring, too.

The peartree was also pretty spectacular this Spring, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One last photo with the phlox in full bloom- it really was a beautiful Spring!

One last photo with the phlox in full bloom — it really was a beautiful Spring!

Without Further Ado, Please Welcome Spring!

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart in the Spring it's time for  their annual "haircut."

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart, and make a mess of your yard, it’s time for their annual spring “haircut.”

It seems that spring really is trying to arrive. When the weather has cooperated, I have gotten out in the garden a few times for an hour or so. The tiniest leaf and flower buds on trees are starting to appear, and small daffodil foliage is sprouting up from the frozen ground. Just two days ago, the last of the snow melted away in my yard — I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

Now, I am in process cutting down last year’s growth on the ornamental grasses, sedum and liriope, as they are ready to re-sprout new growth. I have been spreading leaf compost as I move from one garden area to another.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

I like to give the compost a month to work it’s way into the soil on its own. If it does not, a little spading will incorporate it into the soil, and then I will give the entire yard another layer of shredded mulch. With this exceptionally harsh winter that we’ve just had, I’m expecting a hot and dry summer to follow. This has been the pattern lately — you heard it here first!

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the new buds.

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the newly emerging buds in the crown of the plant.

Another thing to check on now is the lawn. You may want to send a core sample to be analyzed. This is the time of the year for adding lime, if needed, and also a weed pre-emergent specifically for crabgrass and dandelions. If you apply these right now you will (hopefully) not have any of those nasty weeds!

I’m also looking forward to adding some spring flowers in pots on the deck and front porch to banish the last of the drab from winter. Bring on the green! Soon the bulbs will be blooming, and maybe this year my wisteria will finally flower! What beauties will you plant this season?

It’s Definitely Fall

 

The storm that ushered in the cooler temperatures-

The passing storm that ushered in the cooler temperatures.

I love the great pictures that can be taken in the Fall. The harsh angle of the sun can cast some very interesting shadows and highlight colors and textures. I was outside right after a storm pushed through and captured this shot.

The weather has definitely turned crisp around here. The days are shorter, which has made for some pretty color shifts. I love the red of this dogwood tree against the ornamental grasses. The Autumnal shades have been scarce this season around here, and most of the trees in my yard are still green, so this is welcome.

Gorgeous golden colors of Fall

Gorgeous golden colors of Fall.

 

 

This tree is right across the hedgerow and is always one of the first to change color. It’s striking shade of gold makes it one of my most favorites. It doesn’t last long, so I always photograph it as soon as it turns.

The colors are almost like a tapestry.

The colors are like a tapestry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your evening!

Enjoy your evening!

 

 

 

Starting to get dark outside, so just one more parting shot before sunset:

 

 

Setting the Scene for Fall

This year's Fall colors on my porch are deep pinks, purples and teals.

This year’s Fall colors on my porch are deep pinks, purples and teals.

I am getting the gardens ready for Fall, and it has been a beautiful weekend for doing the last bit of weeding and edging. Although the chores are not much fun, I rewarded myself by getting some gorgeous additions for the front entrance: ornamental kale, mums, violas, eucalyptus and some variegated ivy that I will use to add some punch.

This year there are some very interesting colors in the selections at the nurseries. I was inspired by a really beautiful kale, and I am pulling various shades of purples, deep pinks and a teal green from it and adding some bright accents with the ivy and the violas.

This ornamental kale was my inspiration for the Fall colors I chose this year.

This ornamental kale was my inspiration for the Fall colors I chose this year.

As the season progresses, I will add pumpkins and gourds for Halloween, and for Thanksgiving I’ll add some Indian corn. Here again, the choices are amazing — the gourds I’ve seen have so many beautiful greens and ivories, not just the traditional oranges and yellows of yesteryear.

Normally by this time of year summer annuals would be in decline, but our strange year once again is proving to be different.

Normally by this time of year summer annuals would be in decline, but our strange year once again is proving to be different.

It seems that we are having a very late Autumn in the mid-Atlantic region. Barely anything has changed color, and most of the summer annuals are still blooming well. Because of this, I am going to break one of my cardinal rules.  I am normally not one for mixing seasons, and I like to give each season its special time to shine, but it makes it hard for me to remove the summer flowers when they are all still looking so pretty. (I know, I get too attached to my babies… I mean my flowers, LOL!) In order to make the summer flowers work in the design, I bring in texture and color that will coordinate with the vinca and the mandevilla vine which are still thriving. They are both deep pink, so I especially like the combination with the kale! This is normally where I would have installed pansies, so when the frost arrives (and the vincas pass on to flower heaven), I will replace them with some pansies or violas. I love to have some flowers on each side of the driveway to welcome us home year ’round since that is the entrance most used.

Lanterns on sheppard's hooks are a great portable way of lighting a pathway- or anywhere else!

Lanterns on shepherd’s hooks are a great portable way of lighting a pathway — or anywhere else!

I have been so taken with gorgeous candle lanterns from magazines and in pictures that I have seen lately. I love to make the garden come alive with light especially on Halloween and when guests are expected, so I will be adding all my lanterns here and there along the walkways. In addition, there is some beautiful uplighting in the trees and against the house, which have been in place now for many years. I just love the look, and it really shows off the trees at night in a very interesting way! If safety is a concern, battery-powered candles can be substituted in lanterns for real ones. Another easy way of adding lighting is with solar lights, no wiring involved. It seems technology is really improving at a rapid clip in this field, and there are some really pretty styles now, unlike the clunkers of a decade ago.

Fall is a season full of beauty, and it’s so nice to have some cool fresh air again. I hope you can find some time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature is giving us. Please let me know what is inspiring you this season.  Happy gardening!

 

Happy Fall!

Happy Fall!

It’s Almost Autumn!

It’s almost that time of the year again — the mornings are refreshing, and the afternoons mild. I’ve been working on all sorts of house projects, but just wanted to stop and take in some of the beautiful things happening in the garden.
Here are a few of my favorites:

The berries are huge this year on the Pyracantha. The birds will soon notice, and gorge on them, I'm sure!

The berries are huge this year on the Pyracantha. The birds will soon notice, and gorge on them, I’m sure!

I can't get enough of the sedums when they are in bloom. I love the soft coral color.

I can’t get enough of the sedums when they are in bloom. I love the soft coral color.

The fronds on the maidenhair grass shimmer in the sun.

The fronds on the maidenhair grass shimmer in the sun, and I love to watch them dance in the breeze.

The montauk daisies are almost in full bloom!

The Montauk daisies are almost in full bloom!

And my favorite plant of the season, the nandina. With my garden buddy Stomper taking his afternoon nap underneath.

And my favorite plant of the season, the nandina. With my garden buddy Stomper taking his afternoon nap underneath.

Time to go purchase some pansies and mums. I’ll be back soon with some more Autumn glories- until then enjoy your day!

 

 

 

 

 

Full Circle in the Garden

Fall asters come in a range of beautiful colors and have very long bloom times.

I have been so glad that milder air returned this fall. With so many things that need attention in the garden, I’ve been very busy. I have a step-by-step list of what to do when in the garden, and this autumn brings us to the end of the growing season. Lawn renovation is a top priority, but there are also many other needs: cutting back perennials, transplanting and removing bushes, and painting.

First, I found these lovely asters in the garden center. I put them on my front porch front door to inspire me — so vibrant! – and got to work on the front lawn renovation.


This is a terrific thatch rake. I love the adjustable feature - very ergonomic!

 

This year, being intensely hot, wreaked havoc on the grass. It was completely brown and dormant with terrible bare patches. It takes real work to bring back grass that has been that damaged. I am a believer in dethatching with a hand rake – it is less damaging to the roots and gets all the compacted trimmings out. My father gave me his rake a few years ago. It has an adjustable handle which makes the task a little bit easier. Even so, it was several hard days work to finish (wear gloves!).

Next, soak the ground with the sprinkler for a day or so. Using a hand spreader, layer starter fertilizer and an overcast of grass seed. Lightly scratch the surface to bury the seed. Be diligent about watering everyday for a couple of weeks, and you’ll have a gorgeous fall lawn!

In my growing zone (Northern Virginia), I put down new seed by mid-October. That gives the new grass a good chance at developing hardy roots before frost. Check http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ to find the statistics for your local zone.

I also removed some Japanese hollies which became diseased due to the snow damage of a couple of years ago and am replacing them with some variegated euonymus along the front walk. I like to do all bush transplanting in the fall whenever possible, but no later than Thanksgiving. That is also the magic date for planting bulbs. You want to give them time to spread their roots to anchor themselves against winter winds and heaving from frost.

The sedums are one of the few perennials that I don't trim back in the fall. They provide seeds for the birds during winter.

This is also the time of the year to cut back the perennials after they die. I cut to ground level the daylillies, hostas, coreopsis, and other summer flowering varieties. I also neaten up some of the ones that I don’t cut back until spring, like the butterfly bushes, and rake out the lamb’s ears of the dead undergrowth.

To give a nice backdrop to it all, I gave the trimwork, railings, windows and arbors a scrub and a coat or two of paint. The mild weather helps the paint to cure properly and last a few years.

Well, that takes us full circle in the garden for this 2012 growing season. I hope you all have had a wonderful autumn, filled with the colors of the season.

Spring is Here

My kwansan cherry tree in peak bloom. (For those of you who have asked, this is the tree in the blog page's background.)

Just like magic to me, spring has sprung. With such a mild winter this year the blooms are very early. The flowering trees are magnificent, and the phlox is beyond compare. All of the bulbs have finished, but the masses of foliage were much fuller and greener than usual. I think that this might be one of the more beautiful displays ever. Even the azaleas are opening, in all their glory.

These are two weeding tools I use. The one on the left is an ergo tool, and rocks the weeds out of the soil. The one on the right is a serious tool which can extract even the toughest weeds.

It seems all of the plants that I transplanted last fall had a very easy first winter in which to spread their roots and become acclimated to their new locations. I was very happy to see the first leaves sprouting on the three crepe myrtles, and am even more anxious to see them grow to fill out the side garden where once the purple maple stood. Really the only downside of this spring is dandelions, which always seem to blow in, and they are doing way too well. Thankfully, I have two terrific tools which easily uproot them. If your yard is prone to these weeds, I wholeheartedly recommend getting one. They make the process a lot quicker. They work great on all weeds, whatever size.

I am almost done with trimming back the liriope, euonymus, and junipers. Not a minute too soon either, they are already sprouting new growth. I am hoping to finish this weekend because it is now time to edge, and add some new mulch to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Lots to do!

Here is a closeup of the pink dogwood this year. The flowers were so huge and perfect that it almost looked artificial.

A good tip to get your garden off to a good start is after you have prepared the soil with some weed preventer, and stirred in a little compost to add nutrients, give your garden a good watering prior to mulching. This will give it a boost, and ensure that all your plants have everything they need for the new growing season.

One more closeup -- these are the creeping phlox. When first planted, these were just a small plug, they are now more than three feet in diameter, and gorgeous. I would recommend them for my top awards honor this spring.

I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy this incredible time of the year, whether it’s in your own yard, or even the park. Just a reminder — Garden Week is almost here with lots of inspiring places to visit.

It Might Be Winter, But It’s Always A Good Time To Garden!

This is the perfect time of the year to check bushes for evidence of blackspot or other fungal related diseases. Hollies can be prone to this, but many can be helped by picking the infected leaves and removing the fallen from around the base.

So far January has been a wild ride. There is a saying in the Washington area: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.” This week we have had gorgeous 70 degree days, snow, rain and wind storms. Which means as long as you are flexible with your time, you might find an hour or so to get into the garden and catch up on things when the weather is tolerable.

I’ve been asked to chronicle the yearly cycle of when is the proper time to do different tasks, so I will start with my own “garden to-do list” each season in hopes that it will help.

As I was putting away the Christmas decorations, I noticed a bumper crop of weeds already appearing. We did have a record warm December, so it didn’t surprise me. I quickly pulled/dug them out, and then applied a layer of weed preventer. Normally, I would not have done that, but we are really having crazy swings in the weather, so better to be safe than sorry. A little diagnostic tip: Make note of what type of weeds you have and where. It can help you determine if your soil needs help. For instance, clover indicates that the soil is too compacted. Wild onion means your soil is too soggy, etc…

When checking out your bushes, be on the lookout for over-wintering insects. These egg masses are destined for the trash. Be sure not to compost, or you could spread the insect problem!

Another task to do this time of the year is to check the bushes for insects that are wintering there. I invariably find large egg masses of scale in my euonymus and juniper bushes. If you cut these out now, you will have far less insect problems next spring and summer. It is worth checking, and you might also locate bird nests more easily with leaves down. I like to make a mental note of where they are so, I don’t disturb them in the spring.

January and July are the two key months to give Wisteria a hard cutting back. It is easy to remove unwanted branching while the vine is bare this time of year, just be sure to leave 2-3 buds per branch for maximum flowering in the Spring. Also, it's a perfect time to check for bird nests, too, so you won't disturb them in the spring. (If you look carefully you can see a robin's nest at the peak of the arbor.)

This is the perfect time of the year to cut back wisteria and hummingbird vine as well as butterfly bushes. If you cut back, leave 2-3 buds on a branch and you will be rewarded with a fuller plant next summer. This will also encourage more flowering on the wisteria this coming spring. I am also working my way around the yard, cutting down the ornamental grasses, one by one, and the remainder of the other perennials. I have dozens of irises, sedum, coreopsis, liriope, and many others, so if I cut a few back each day it will add up. When I have finished with these, it will be time to move on to the larger bushes. I like to have the hollies and the junipers trimmed back prior to March. They will then set their new growth and fill out shortly after.

It seems like this will be an early spring in this region. I am already seeing my crocus and daffodils breaking through the soil, and flower buds swelling on the trees. Here’s hoping we have many more moderate days to enjoy, and give us  a head-start in the garden!

 

Fall Garden Renewal

There are now three Crepe Myrtle trees where the old Maple tree once stood.

Fall is here, and in many ways it seemed like it couldn’t get here fast enough. We had the hottest, driest summer, and it really was hard on the garden. We lost one tree to intense storm damage, another to disease, and an unusual number of branches on the Japanese hollies and azaleas. Just too hot and buggy.

All summer long I was thinking about what kind of tree I would like to replace my Maple tree with. I decided that instead of one large tree, I would plant three Crepe Myrtles instead. They are not as tall, with looser branching structure, so they will be wind tolerant, and faster growing, to mask an unfavorable view, so I think it will be a better choice all round. I had to move a couple of huge bushes in order to get the spacing right between the trees, but that gives me a chance to share some more of my ornamental grass with a neighbor who is re-doing her yard. It is a big change where the new trees stand, but a nice one. I look forward to the beautiful lavender flowers that they will bring in the future.

We lost a lot of branches in storms. Thankfully, our waste collection company recycles it into compost for use in the garden.

 

The area where my Peartree stood is also where we were thinking about repositioning the front walk, so I will add another tree or two to the front when that job is complete. This will provide more direct access up to the front door from the sidewalk, and improve the curb appeal as well. I will increase the area at the base of the front stairs so that a bench and possibly a post lamp will fit. I love to have as many places in the garden as possible to sit and view from different vantage points.

 

This is also a time to add some more stone into the garden. I love using natural products, and am planning to use the huge, natural slab bluestone from Pennsylvania. It is not far, so it won’t be adding too much to my carbon footprint, which is always a concern to me when choosing something new.  It will lend a natural feel, and I will be able to reposition the slabs in the future, if I feel like it. I love that aspect of it, because its always interesting to change things around after a few years.

A fresh coating of driveway sealant can make the driveway look like new again.

 

In addition to addressing both of those areas, I have also resurfaced the driveway. We have an asphalt surface, so every few years I add new coating. It is surprising how quickly it transforms and beautifies — almost looks like new, even though it is 30 years old!

 

Thanks to two hurricanes and a tropical storm, the lawn has come back to health. Croquet anyone?

The turf in the yard had become so dry that it hurt your feet to walk on it barefooted. It was sharp and had turned brown and mostly dormant. We have been getting some incredible rain for about ten days, off and on (thanks to Hurricanes Irene and Lee), and the grass has come back green and strong. I was getting worried that I would have to do some major lawn renovating, but it’s looking terrific. Some fall fertilizer and weed control will be all it needs. Now that it is a little cooler, I will trim out the dead branches on the bushes, and of course plant some beautiful Mums and Pansies.

 

It is great to get back outside. What projects will you tackle in your yard?

 

 

When Spring becomes Summer

Here in the Northern Virginia area we moved from Spring into Summer with a vengeance this year. It went from wet and mild, to dry and hot! More than 100 degrees today, and last week as well.

That means it is time to clean up the remains of Spring — deadheading iris, azaleas, rhododendron, clearing out old bulb foliage which is now brown, and I like to clean up the lilly foliage as well before it starts to bloom.

When the temperature goes back down a little, I will also start some pruning. The boxwoods have growing quite huge this year. Each spring I prune about 1/4 of the branches out. This keeps a beautiful shape, and encourages lots of growth throughout the plant. The same with the azaleas and the hollies. The rhododendrons are a little different. I break off the flower when it’s done, and trim back the new growth as needed. They shed their inner leaves, as well as the euonymus and pyracantha, so now that that has happened, it is best to remove all the fallen debris.

Shell mulch discourages squirrels from digging in pots.


I also like to scratch up the mulch a bit so that it does not become too hard. This helps water to percolate through, as well as help to hold it in. I also follow that up with another application of weed preventer (every 3 months). While I’m on the mulch subject I want to share a tip: If you have trouble with squirrels digging in your pots, like I do, fill them in with shells. I have been doing this for years. They are too heavy for the squirrels to scratch out, so they leave them alone. It also looks beautiful and is a great mulch!

Another tip I have on days like this one is to use a market umbrella in a sturdy stand that you can move around to wherever you are working. I’ve even been known to set up the sprinkler to keep cool while weeding, and of course, don’t forget the lemonade!