Archive for Spring flowers

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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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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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!

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.

 

 

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!

The Merry Month of May

Pansies at there fullest-

Pansies at their fullest right now – just in time for Mother’s Day!

First of all, I would like to say that I hope all the Moms out there had a very Happy Mother’s Day! Did you know that there are more flowers sent for Mother’s Day than Valentine’s Day — interesting statistic!

The old adage “April showers bring May flowers” is very true this year. Suddenly, the gardens have sprung to life around here. We went from a freeze warning to 90-degree days in less than a week, and that brought on an amazing array of beautiful flowers overnight! The grass is growing about six to seven inches in a week. I hope that you are enjoying the warmer weather, and I have some tips for how to manage some of the spring tasks ahead.

The azalea & periwinkle bloomed at the same time this year-

The azalea and periwinkle bloomed at the same time this year.

This season came on so fast that almost all of my spring blooming plants are flowering all at once, creating fun combinations that almost never happen. Right now, the periwinkle, rhododendron and azalea are blooming together, and before that the Pear, Cherry and Dogwood trees all bloomed at the same time. Normally these are all spaced about two weeks apart, so it has created a magical display. The pollen is out in force, too, but we won’t talk about that… A-choo!

Since the overnight temps were still dipping too low to mulch the grass clippings (the overnight lows need to be above 55 degrees), I want to share a tip that your flowers are going to love. Just take the grass clippings and spread them on your flower beds about 3 to 4 inches thick, then turn them into the soil with a spading fork. This will lighten the soil and nourish the bed.

Spade in excess grass clippings now, for a terrific flower bed in a couple of weeks-

Spade-in excess grass clippings now, for a terrific flower bed in a few weeks.

Let the garden rest for a couple of weeks until the clippings turn brown and it’s warm enough to plant your summer annuals. If you do this, I promise you will be rewarded with flowers that grow twice as big. I like to top dress the beds with a little mulch after the flowers are planted to help keep the moisture in the soil, too. In garden beds that have been established/planted you might stir in some leaf compost around the base of the plants instead.

We had a pretty harsh winter for this region and I lost a few plants, but I’m having fun filling in the spots with some transplants from other areas. Seems there is always change in the air around here, but that is what keeps it interesting.

Hope you enjoy!

The rhododendron are so full of flowers. A welcome sight after a cold winter.

The rhododendron are so full of flowers. A welcome sight after a cold winter.

The white iris is even taller than usual this year- almost 4 feet tall!

The white iris is even taller than usual this year — almost four feet tall!

One more shot of the azaleas-

One more shot of the azaleas — Happy Spring!