Tag Archive for Garden enjoyment

The Queen of Autumn – Beautiful Mums – Long May They Reign!

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

It seems autumn has finally arrived! In celebration, I always am drawn to the nursery to bring home a few of my favorite harbingers of autumn, the beautiful chrysanthemum. I am going to give you some tips today to give you at least DOUBLE the blooming time on these beauties. Sometimes I have kept them going for almost three months of flowers using this strategy.

Here goes–

 

 

 

 

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy-

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy.

First, when choosing your mum, buy one that is still in the “color showing bud” stage. This way, you will have the opportunity to get every minute of flowering time.

 

 

Instead of planting the mums in the garden, plant them in pots at least four inches larger than the nursery pot that they come in. This allows you to pull them under cover of a porch, garage or even into your house during fall rainstorms — their biggest enemy!

 

 

 

 

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of Fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

 

When watering the potted mums, just water the the root zone from under the foliage. This is very important. Water on the flowers after they open will kill the flower. It breaks my heart when I see a well-intentioned gardener plant their mums and then water from above with a hose, only to see that the mums are dead the next week. Watering only the soil keeps the foliage and flowers dry and protects them. Using this method should give you at least a month and half of bloom time.

 

 

 

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

 

Now to extend that month and a half of blooms for a month or possibly even more, here’s my final tip: deadheading. If you remove the first set of blooms when they have finished, you will see a second set of buds hidden underneath. These are smaller, but will provide you with a second bloom cycle of flowers. Double the fun!

 

 

 

 

 

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener's gold-

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener’s gold…

 

 

I hope you will give this method a try if you love mums as much as I do. Happy autumn gardening everyone!

Lawn Renovation Even in Sauna Weather – Got to Get it Done!

Hi everyone! We had an unbelievable amount of rain here this year, almost double our annual rainfall total. The air feels like a sauna even in October. It’s been hard to spend more than a few hours outside at a time in the heat and humidity — but you know I can’t stay inside, and there’s work to be done!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching the lawn and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

My priority now is renovating the lawn. Normally, I would finish this completely in September, but the weather has put me behind schedule. To do this right, I started by weeding the entire lawn by hand, as opposed to using an herbicide. When planning to overseed, one needs to make sure not to have any chemicals on the lawn which could interfere with the new seed sprouting.

I am using a specialized steel rake to get every bit of thatch out of the lawn — a tool I inherited from my grandfather. This is THE most grueling step. After de-thatching two-thirds of the lawn, I have collected more than a dozen full bags of debris (don’t worry — you know it’s going to the compost heap). I’m impressed with how effectively this steel rake pulls out the thatch — and it loosens the surface, which makes for great new seed contact into the top soil.

Everyone who walks by while I’m working asks me why I don’t just use a machine for this, but if you saw how much better this works you’d know why!

This is a photo of what the plugging machines do. They really don't get any thatch up, and compared to the steel rake- well, there is no comparison-

This is what those plugging machines do. They really don’t get any thatch up, and compared to my steel rake — well, there is no comparison, not to mention that the plugs of soil the machines leaves behind look like, um, something else we don’t really want to see…

I bought a premium seed that has a variety of grass types: some that sprout within a week to stabilize the bare spots, and additional varieties that will be sprouting over the next few. This mix also had a seed-starting fertilizer mixed in, but if the variety you purchase doesn’t have this, I’d recommend using some.

Keeping things moist while the seeds are doing their magic is key, but with all the rain we’ve had, I’ve only had to water the new seed a few times.

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

 

I’m happy to say that I finally was able to easily pull out the last of the roots from two pear trees which used to grace the front yard. Now those areas are much smoother in elevation. The vast majority of the surface roots came out with the tree, but a few deep ones remained. On these areas, which were quite large, I used a couple of pieces of sod and more seed around the edges to completely fill it in. Now you’d never know that those were trouble spots!

 

 

 

 

Once the new seed reaches three inches tall, you can start mowing. We gave our newly-seeded lawn its first mow this week.  I have a tip for this, too: Set your mower to highest level first, because after a few weeks of not mowing, the existing grass will definitely be quite long and would clog the bagging chute. In a couple of days, set your mower to the normal level and cut it again. This way your lawn won’t be stressed as much — and you won’t create new thatch by using a clogged mower!

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging. What a good feeling that is-

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front yard is finished, now on to the back-

The front yard is finished, now on to the back…

 

I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can finish up my raking this week, but (if you can believe it) we have a new hurricane bearing down tomorrow night, and two more in the Atlantic pipeline. Hope everyone stays safe, and best of luck — I’ll be back with some pretty fall flowers next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

Front Garden Renovation – Adding Curb Appeal

Here is my "before" photo of the front entrance garden. I am looking to fill in the area between boxwoods, and soften the edge of the garden.

Here is the “before” photo of the front entrance garden. I want to fill in the area between the boxwoods with a seating area that will soften the straight edge of the walkway by adding curves.

 

Long ago, when I first designed the front yard of our house, I left a 15 foot wide gap between the boxwood bushes that wrap the front of the house. This was supposed to be very temporary. My intent was to change the path of the front walkway and bring it up the middle of the lawn instead of from the driveway on the side. Well, as years slipped by, I have had much more pressing projects. The front pathway took a back seat, but it’s time to get started with a new plan. I’ve changed my mind on moving the location of the walkway for now, but I still want to soften up the existing straight line of the boxwood garden. To improve curb appeal, I added some seating and space for seasonal color by the front entrance.  I’ll show you how I went about it, step by step.

 

Then for the hard part-- cutting the edge with a scallop edger, and turning all the turf over with a rounded shovel. I prefer this to a cultivator, because you have far less grass growing back up, almost none!

First, I laid out a long rope to define where I wanted to expand the edge of the garden bed and marked the new edge with landscape paint. Then, the hard part — cutting the edge with a scallop edger, and turning all the turf over with a rounded shovel. This is back breaking work, but I prefer this to a cultivator — you have far less grass growing back up, almost none! You can see already how the curvy edge softens up the row of boxwoods.

 

Here's another angle from the side that shows the new edge.

Here’s another angle from the side that shows the new edge. Once it had rested for a few days, I broke up the shovelfuls of turf to smooth it out. Over time the turned grass will degrade, providing nutrients for the new garden area.

 

I added some stone benches that we already had, transplanted some pachasandra and some annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. Over time the pachasandra will fill out and create a nice border. I'm planning to add some flagstone pieces to the front side and fill in with some more pachasandra between the stones, in the fall when the weather is cooler.     I added some stone benches that we already had, transplanted some pachasandra and some annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. Over time the pachasandra will fill out and create a nice border. I'm planning to add some flagstone pieces to the front side and fill in with some more pachasandra between the stones, in the fall when the weather is cooler.

Here is the “after” shot: I added stone benches, transplanted  pachysandra and annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. You already hardly notice the straight line of the walkway.  I’m planning to add some flagstone pieces to the side bordering the walkway and fill in with more pachysandra between the stones in the fall when the weather is cooler. Until then, I’m happy with the progress, and the more welcoming look!

 

I’m not quite finished with it, but already I’m much happier with the amped-up curb appeal, and a new place to sit in the garden. I’ll post another photo in the fall when I add some flagstone pieces to transition from the walkway to the benches. I’ll transplant more ground cover to fill it in when the weather cools off. Hope you all have a safe and wonderful 4th of July! Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

Happy Fall-

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

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2017 Flower Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

In the evening light the azaleas shine.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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!

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