Tag Archive for changing seasons

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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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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My Gardening Goals and Dreams for 2017

A new year is starting- time for some new gardening goals!

A new year is starting — time for some new gardening goals!

Hi there! It’s been a hard few months for me, trying to not worry too much about the future, but I’m doing my best to re-focus on what I can do. I urge all to stay aware of clean gardening practices and what we can do for the environment: not using chemicals, recycling/composting, participating in clean-up efforts in our communities, and last but not least, sending your Senators and Representatives a call or an email asking them to keep as many environmental protections in place as they can. You can reach them all at (202) 224-3121. The Capitol operators can help you find your Senators or Representatives, even if you don’t know their names.

We have a lot of work ahead of us! I don’t mean to rant on, but really, who doesn’t want a clean and healthy world? I think we can all agree on that! I think that is my biggest dream. I hope we can curb our losses at the EPA. Climate change is real!

Here in my little corner of the world, I managed to get quite a lot finished up in 2016, but I still have so much to do. This year’s main focus is on improving the areas under and around the deck.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

Here are my goals: I’ll make an designated area to place the trash can and recycling bins that is both out of sight, but still easy to roll out to the curb. This also will improve the area where I store my flower pots, extra hoses, etc.  And, there is one area I couldn’t work on last fall because I ran out of time — I need to lift some of the bricks on the back walkway and level them. After sixteen years, the ground has sunk around the plexi pipe that carries the runoff water from the downspout — should be an easy fix! Third, I will use my brick saw to cleanup the edge of the walkway where it connects to the driveway.

All the cosmetic work will boost the curb appeal, too — always a plus. When spring arrives, the garden around the base of the deck will get some annuals to really fill out the space and give some added color.  Looking at the winter garden, when most everything is bare or died back to the ground for the season, things look bleak, so I will post a  picture when everything has sprung back to beautiful life and show some before and after shots in a few months.

Here's a photo of my re make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced with posts I had saved from an old job. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want.

Here’s a photo of my re-make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced them with posts I had saved. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, with no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want. I’ll be sure to post again when everything is in leaf and bloom, but while the bushes are bare you can see the screen more clearly.

When I manage to finish all of that, the upper trim around the house and gutter system needs a complete cleaning and painting. Lots of the basics — weeding, mulching, trimming, mowing and edging — go on pretty much year round. Here’s a winter tip to make quick work of a messy, windswept yard: We find that it is much easier to run the mower over the grassy areas every month or so even in winter to pick up the leaves that blow in and smooth out the clumps of grass than it is to rake the whole yard over and over.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Last fall I did manage to finish re-making the planters and arbors and reinstall them. Using the leftover lumber from other jobs that I had stored in the garage, I added extra posts so that the planters could be used as privacy panels (hiding the less-than-pretty necessities that are stored under the deck). Then I planted the rose bushes, which had been in pots before, and divided and replanted the liriope to fill out the garden. Also, five other areas of the garden were edited and simplified. Plants had grown so out of bounds over the years, and it was time to selectively remove and transplant many to new locations. Now there is some breathing room, with nothing crowded. I added another three cubic yards of mulch to spruce up the beds, and then the cold weather set in.

This fun garden ornament has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

This fun garden ornament that I was gifted has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

On the creative side of things, I’m looking forward to making some stepping stones to access some of the deeper garden beds more easily.

Lastly, I received a really fun garden ornament from my sister, and it adds so much personality to the garden. Thank you, Tracy! It makes me want to incorporate a few more special things to spice things up! More on that later…

What are your goals for 2017 out in the garden? I’d love to hear!

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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.

 

 

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!

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!

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!

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!