Archive for Garden Enjoyment

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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Great Ideas for Gardening Gifts

I just had a most fun weekend with my high school friends for an all-class reunion. It has been more years that I want to count, but it seems we always pick up where we left off, and we always love getting together! Since I’m still a “local”, I love opening up the house to my out of town friends. I was bestowed with some very creative and lovely gifts and want to share some pictures, because I thought that if you are like me, then you are always looking for ideas for great gifts! These ladies came up with some fantastic and thoughtful ones that you could tailor to your own lucky recipient!

Windsocks and garden flags are colorful and cute, and they have a hidden benefit!!!

Windsocks and garden flags are colorful and cute, and they have a hidden benefit!!!

I love this windsock. I hung it out off the deck railing right away to signal that the party had begun, and not only is it colorful and cute, but after a couple of days we realized it had a hidden benefit! I have a wide deck railing that the birds like to perch on, and every day I would need to wash it off due to the bird’s leaving something unwanted behind — if you know what I mean. The motion of the windsock hanging so close to the rail kept them from perching there, or doing their “business” there. Yay!  Hidden benefit!!!!  Don’t worry though, there are plenty of close by spots for them to perch, and for us to enjoy them in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

How wonderful to pamper yourself with a hand and foot scrub after a long day of gardening!

How wonderful to pamper yourself with a hand and foot scrub after a long day of gardening!

Here’s another creative, pretty and very useful gift that any gardening lady or gent would love!  These are specially-made hand and foot scrubs — sugar for your hands, and salt for your feet. There are many recipes to make these online and you can even color them with food dye to match the personality of your lucky recipient. And really, who doesn’t like to pamper themselves after a long day’s gardening? Perfect! Of course, these containers are just right, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Earthgirl Statue, handpainted watering can, and a stained glass panel. Love them all!

My Earthgirl statue, a hand-painted watering can, and a stained glass panel. Love them all!

I thought this was truly fantastic:  an Earthgirl statue bestowed on yours truly — I’m humbled! This was a very inventive gift for me, of course, but there are so many interesting statues out there, that I’m sure you could find the perfect one for your gardener as well! Also, I included a couple of other things I have received over the years in the photo. Watering cans are classic, fun and useful, and I’ve always loved this stained glass panel of Monet’s Waterlily garden.

 

 

 

A bottle of wine is always enjoyed here- and now I have a special glass, too!

A bottle of wine is always enjoyed here with guests — and now I have a special glass, too!

And last, but not least — what a perfect way to end the day: to sit back to view your garden, but with a glass of wine in a hand-painted wineglass!  There was a different glass for each of us. How special is that??

I hope these imaginative ideas will help you to choose a great gift next time you are looking for one. Thank you again to my lovely house guests, I will treasure these always! And you shouldn’t have!

 

 

A Bright Spot on a Rainy Day

In the pink-

In the pink!

Hi, everyone! I’m about ready to start building an ark. We have smashed through a century-old record for the most rainy days in a row. The previous record was 13 days, and we are now in our 16th day of rain! The street lights are staying on all day, because it’s so drab and dark. I, for one, need some springtime cheer, so I thought I’d post some bright spots from the garden on this rainy day…

Long shot through the azaleas to the east garden-

Long shot through the azaleas to the east garden.

The glorious white irises-

The glorious white irises.

The happy yellow flag irises- always make me smile!

The happy yellow flag irises — always make me smile!

Some beautiful cosmos from seeds a friend gave me-  P.S. this is the perfect time to sow seeds outdoors, now that the fear of frost is over.

Some beautiful cosmos started from seeds a friend gave me. P.S.: This is the perfect time to sow seeds outdoors, now that the risk of frost is over.

The pansies that I planted last fall are making a spectacular encore in this rain forest weather.

The pansies that I planted last fall are making a spectacular encore in this rain forest weather.

And drum roll, please-- the beautiful allium flowers just exploded open!

And drum roll, please — the beautiful allium flowers just exploded open!

 

Well, that does it for today, a new downpour has started up! The upshot is no watering will be needed around here for a looooong time. Rain, rain, go away!  I know later on in the year I’ll want some more, but for now I’d like some sunshine, please!

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:

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Ideas for a New Year

In January, I like to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in my overall plan for enjoyment in the garden. I’m always looking for ways to make things more functional and easily accessible where they are used.  I love trying new ideas that reuse and recycle salvaged items. Here’s a look at some of the projects we have done to solve common issues that many of us have with our gardens and decks.

It is so handy to have the patio umbrellas right where we need them.

We installed a bay window in the kitchen where there had been three flat windows. This created a new exterior space underneath that was the perfect size to store patio umbrellas. Wooden panels were attached to the deck with angle brackets with one on a hinge to serve as the door. We designed a cart on small casters to easily roll the umbrellas in and out of the space. No more lugging the umbrellas all the way to the garage anymore; they are right where we need them.

For more storage on the deck, we made a deck box to hold the chair cushions when not in use. We used salvaged wood from a fence that had fallen, so it was also a great reuse of materials. The deck box  doubles as seating or as a serving/bar surface when entertaining. Whenever possible, try to double up on function for every piece of furniture. That way if you decide to change things around you won’t be left with something that has only one purpose, and no longer has a function.

This deck box holds all the chair cushions, and doubles as party seating. The lattice panels in the arbor are easily removable to prepare for storms.

The deck on our house is visible from the street and has little shade. To help with both of these issues we designed an arbor that works well for many reasons. Also, I have a wisteria growing upon one side so it needed to be very strong. We  take on quite heavy winds here during storms, being close to the water. Our answer to these issues was to double up on the supports for extra strength, and make the lattice privacy panels easily removable (they just lift out). Now we are covered for sun, privacy, and winds!

A seating platform raises the area to the perfect viewing height above the rail.

When sitting in our Adirondack chairs on the deck, we used to have the water view ruined by the (legally-required) rail which is right at eye level. We came up with an idea which works great: a floating-deck raised platform for two of the deck chairs. Now, we have a perfect view of the water. This platform was also built with scrap lumber. As it is just one step up and floats on the deck, it can be moved around for the deck’s annual deck wash/seal.

This coming year I hope to add several more improvements: I would like to incorporate a coldframe to grow lettuce and other veggies year round, using the windows which were removed when we installed the kitchen bay. Also in the works: A re-vamp of the underground irrigation system with more efficient, better-located sprinkler heads. I am hoping to save countless hours of watering in the heat of the summer. More on these in future blogs.

I hope some of these ideas might be solutions for you, and as always I’d love to hear what new things you have dreamed up for your gardens in the new year.

Keeping Cool and Hydrated in the Summer Heat

Take frequent water breaks, and drink at least one glassful an hour.

We had a huge storm on the east coast last weekend followed by the hottest temperatures I have ever seen around here. Keeping cool and hydrated is a must if you plan to spend time outside in this intense heat. After just a couple of hours working to clean up storm damage, the heat got to me and I took a tumble. After both hurting my wrist and breaking a toe, I have learned my lesson the hard way. I am now very aware to drink water often and, preferably, in the shade.

Our thermometer read 108 degrees. Brutally hot temperatures mean limiting your time outdoors.

Limit your time outside while triple digit temperatures are here. If you can, try to break up your chores into ten minute segments, and cool off indoors between times. I recommend moving all small pots and containers to locations where they are out of the direct sun until the heat subsides. I put mine under my deck. They tend to dry out quickly otherwise. Try to water all pots twice daily. Add ice cubes to the top of hanging baskets to cool the soil as the cubes melt.

Adding ice cubes to your hanging baskets or flower pots cools the soil and slowly waters.

Soaker hoses are worth their weight in gold in this weather. I like to use them in the evening, and they can really mean the difference in keeping newly planted trees and bushes alive. If you have an irrigation system, set it to run in the pre-dawn morning hours. This will give the plants and lawn a chance to dry off before the sun is out.

Don’t water anything while it’s in the full sun. It will quickly sunburn the leaves and kill the flowers. The water actually intensifies the sun’s rays like a magnifying glass. Beware of setting anything like a trash can lid or even a plastic trash bag on your lawn while you’re working. It takes only minutes for them to kill the grass.

In fish ponds and swimming pools, keep watch on your water level.

If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool or fish pond, check your water level daily. It’s amazing how quickly the water can evaporate on extremely hot days. If the water levels fall too low to recirculate, the pump can overheat and burn up. If you have a fish pond, be sure to shade it.

A portable market umbrella can do a great job of keeping you cool.

A great way to stay cool while gardening is to follow the shade around your house, and set up a sprinkler (my favorite!) to cool you down while working. When shade isn’t available, I set up my market umbrella. It can feel 10 to 20 degrees cooler under the umbrella than working in the full sun. Even a large brimmed hat can help to keep the rays off, so enjoy your summer!

Keeping Gardening Enjoyable

Although time consuming to keep trained, I grow this wisteria next to my back deck just because I love it. Sometimes that is all that counts!

If gardening wasn’t so much fun, it wouldn’t be one of the favorite hobbies of so many people. It lifts the spirit to work with the earth. It also happens to be great exercise, and you can tailor it to your own level of difficulty. I want to share some tips on keeping it fun, while getting everything done.

Right now, because of the extreme heat we have had, there are some flowers that are looking pretty haggard.  I have a rule — I’ll call it the “one hand rule” — each time I go out, I work on one area and pull, deadhead or trim one-hand’s worth of debris. This way I don’t get too hot, and its not overwhelming. Since I am out probably ten times a day, I actually accomplish quite a lot.

If you pick just one handful of weeds each time you go out, you'll be done before you know it.

Keep it simple; know your limits. Plant only what you know you can keep up with. The visual clutter of an unkempt garden is never good. I have seen far too many gardens fall victim to an overly ambitious plan that requires more time to manage than the well-meaning gardener has time to spend on it.  A single pot of beautiful, healthy flowers is always a joy, and in the end more rewarding than a yard full of mess. So if that is all the time you have, then you are using it wisely!

I have mentioned this next one before, but it bears repeating: segment your yard into manageable-sized sections. I call this one “divide and conquer.” You can quickly see the results when you work and complete one part at a time, and feel a great sense of accomplishment as you work your way around the yard.

Liatris- one of my favorite perennials!

Most of all, make sure to include at least one thing that truly makes you happy. Whether its a window box under a kitchen window, or a beautiful collection of flowers by your door, it will put you in a good mood every time you look at them!

Enjoy!

 

 

Favorite quote of the day:  “Life’s a garden — dig it!” –  Joe Dirt