Tag Archive for Gardening in Mid Atlantic area

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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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Time to get outside and do something nice for our mother Earth- enjoy!

Happy Earth Day 2017! Time to get outside and do something nice for our mother Earth- whether it is planting a tree, cleaning up a park, or marching for science- enjoy!

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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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A Field Trip to Washington’s Gardens at Mount Vernon

Beautiful Mt. Vernon wearing her new "old" colors again.

Beautiful Mt. Vernon mansion house wearing her new “old” colors again.

Each year on George Washington’s Birthday, the Mount Vernon Estate opens its gates to the public for free. As you might imagine, it is filled with people coming to celebrate the day. Since it’s right down the street from my home, I try to go every year. There is always something that is undergoing a renovation, and it’s great to see what’s newly been uncovered with all the advancements in technology they have. The mansion house has now been painted with colors that have been discovered to be the original — very different from the colors we all thought for years to be accurate. For at least the last century, it has been painted white and it’s bright red roof shown against the blue sky. Now the colors are much softer and more muted. A golden tan is on the field of the house, and the roof is a much softer red. It’s very pretty, but for those of us who see it everyday, quite a change!

The amazing view from the veranda looks exactly as it did when George Washington lived there.

The amazing view from the veranda looks exactly as it did when George Washington lived there.

The “back yard” of the house it is still just as it was when President Washington lived there. Believe it or not, the view from the veranda has been protected in a way that you cannot see any other structures across the Potomac River — 80 square miles of protection to be exact! I think that’s an amazing accomplishment. All the lawn that you see is trimmed by a scythe, no mowers used here. It’s quite impressive to watch. The estate’s team of gardeners have a wealth of knowledge about the colonial era tools, and there are special tours where they will demonstrate many of them. If you get a chance to visit, you might want to call ahead and request a special tour!

The inside of the orangery at Mt. Vernon

The inside of the orangery at Mount Vernon.

This year I went specifically to see the orangery and it’s surrounding garden. This area was used in housing the small citrus trees that they grew in planters. The trees would be outside in the warm months and moved indoors into the orangery in the winter. It has a dark colored slate floor, and masonry walls which would soak up all the warmth from the sun during the day through the south facing, floor to ceiling windows. Then in the evening, the shutters would be closed, and the floor would radiate it’s heat back into the room, keeping it above freezing, and all it’s tender trees and plants would be kept alive. They have not quite finished this renovation and the plants are not inside yet, but soon it will be full of tender plants.

Enjoying a warm and beautiful walk in the brick walled garden. A cherry tree espallied against the wall is almost ready to spring back into growing from the extra warmth of the wall.

Enjoying a warm and beautiful walk in the brick walled garden. A cherry tree espallied against the wall is almost ready to spring back into growing from the extra warmth of the wall.

On the outside of the building there is a large garden surrounded by brick walls to protect against nibbling deer and other animals. This area was mainly used to start new plants for transplant into the other landscaped areas and was used as sort of a colonial era plant nursery. President Washington was the recipient of many gifts of plants and new varieties of seeds and, according to his journals, enjoyed experimenting with them.

The walls of the garden have many different varieties of espallied trees — mostly fruiting trees like apple, peach, fig and cherry. They were grown against the walls for extra warmth to prolong the growing season, and also pruned to just a few feet tall, to make harvesting the fruit easy. The colonial people were very clever in their farming practices!

Early Autumn is when the figs ripen to perfection!

This fig was from a past Mount Vernon plant sale, one of the Washington’s favorite!

 

Along the brick lined paths they additionally would grow herbs and medicinal plants. A very diverse variety of plants grew there. The tiny little boxwood plants that you see edging the walk, figs trees, herbs and many other plants and seeds are sold in the annual plant sale fundraiser, coming up in Garden Week, another really fun event!

 

Here is a close up on the apple trees. February and early March are when the do a major pruning on them to keep them low, and easy to harvest

Here is a close up on the apple trees in the larger vegetable garden. February and early March are when they are pruned to keep them low, and easy to harvest.

 

 

There is a huge vegetable garden on the other side of the mansion as well. With hundreds of mouths to feed, this was a most important garden, and it was in constant rotation of crops. Lettuces, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, melon and many more things grew here. This season the early spring onions and cabbages were looking great.

 

 

 

 

 

A dove with an olive branch sits atop Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington

A dove with an olive branch sits atop the cupola on the mansion house- — what a fantastic view!

I always hate to leave Mt. Vernon estate, but the afternoon was coming to an end. So until I am back there next year, Happy Birthday George Washington! And happy gardening to the rest of us-

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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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Kicking Out the Winter Blaaahs

A simple bundle of amarylis flowers in a round cylinder vase adds a great pop of color on the hearth. They are tall, so I like using them up against a wall in an unexpected place.

A simple bundle of amaryllis flowers in a round cylinder vase adds a great pop of color on the hearth. They are tall, so I like using them against a wall in an unexpected place.

I always feel like my house looks so bare after I take down the Christmas decorations. The outside, too, seems so bleak and beige. It gives me a case of the blaahs. Here are a few simple things I’m doing to counteract those winter doldrums at my home.

I like to have colorful flowers to give some warmth to the home. For me, that means using tropical flowers and colors. I love the way tropical flowers work with so many furniture styles, too. From modern contemporary, to coastal, to traditional, they look wonderful.

I’m a practical lady and, as you know, and I like to grow a lot of the plants I use for decorating. But tropical flowers don’t grow around here unless you have a greenhouse, so my choices are purchasing them from a floral supply shop (very expensive!), or using silk replicas. Well, you know what this budget-minded lady is going to use! There are some amazingly realistic silks available now, too.

On a tabletop I have a single heliconia flower. Such vibrant colors, makes me feel warm. I filled the base with crabapples for some extra color.

On this tabletop I have a single heliconia flower. Such vibrant colors make me feel warm. I filled the base with crabapples for some extra color.

With many tropical flowers, you get wonderful impact with one or just a few flowers, especially with the larger flowers. The key is color — the more saturated the better, in my opinion. Luckily, readily-available square and round cylinder vases are great with almost everyone’s personal style.

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to display arrangements made for console tables or floor arrangements. These are tall so they are better positioned near a wall rather than as a centerpiece, which you would want to be low enough you could see across the table for conversation.

In the entry hall I have a vase of bird of paradise flowers. I added a branch from the curly willow tree to give the arrangement some motion.

In the entry hall I have a vase of bird of paradise flowers. I added a branch from the curly willow tree to give the arrangement some motion.

It’s also nice to have small “minis” that you can scatter around on side tables, or on a tray with other things, or even in multiples down a mantle or dining table. I’d suggest trying orchids or succulent plants that require very little care, great for busy lifestyles or those who travel.

Here’s a fun tip to give some extra zip to your floral creation: take advantage of the base of the clear vases by using interesting things to dress them up. Some favorite fillers are shells, beach glass, stones, wine corks, small fruit, moss or lining the vase with leaves.

I like to balance out the room with some small mini potted plants, these tiny orchids can live for years with very little care.

I like to balance out the room with some small mini potted plants, these tiny orchids can live for years with very little care.

When I was last at my wholesaler with a friend, we discovered that there is now a 4″ wide ribbon that is made exactly for this, and looks like a variegated leaf — pretty clever! We picked some up for her daughter’s upcoming wedding.

Don't forget your bookcases- just a small pot of leaves or ivy can breathe some color back into an otherwise missable spot.

Don’t forget your bookcases! Just a small pot of leaves or ivy can breathe some interest into an otherwise stale spot.

Another tip when using silk flowers in a clear vase is to add a couple of inches of water. This might seem funny to some, but it seals the deal, makes faux flowers seem real! And one more tip when using faux: make sure to keep them dusted.

Outside, I love to have a few pots of pansies for color, and I add branches of boxwood or juniper for some background. I also do the same with bare branches from the curly willow for some interest and height.

Well, these are a few of my favorite ways to combat the blaahs. Hope you find them interesting, and please share with me what you do in your home!

Where I sit at the kitchen table I like to have some flowerpots to look at out on the deck. Makes me feel like Spring can't be too far off. Nice thought!

I like to have some flowerpots to look at out on the deck from where I sit at the kitchen table. Makes me feel like spring can’t be too far off. Hmmm…. Nice thought!

 

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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 Long Goodbye to Summer Heat

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat. Watering at least once a day has been a key!

This pretty lemon/lime coleus has done well in the summer heat — watering it at least once a day has been the key! It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, too!

Here in the mid-Atlantic, this has been a really rough summer, and the climate change has been very pronounced. Officially, it is the second hottest summer on record. With well over 50 days of temps in the mid-90′s and higher, the plants and trees are struggling — so much so that I am rethinking the location of many different plants in my garden. The micro-climate in my yard is hotter than the officially recorded temps by usually around five degrees. I think that is mostly due to the fact that we don’t have many shade trees on the property.

It’s a good time to take inventory of how the plants are faring. I think it’s interesting to compare how the same variety of plants do on various sides of the house, getting sun at different times of the day.

I am concerned about a row of euonymous that I planted along the front walk. Each spring, they start off looking amazing and full but lose their leaves by the end of summer, leaving them looking like bare stalks — not pretty. Those will be removed, and in their place I will add more liriope, and just fill the walkway garden with it, since it has done exceptionally well in that exposure.

The other hits in the front garden are the Hyacinth bean vine that I started from seed from last year’s winner, and also this gorgeous lemon/lime coleus with purple flower stalks. Both of these have been attracting butterflies and hummingbirds!

The purple flowering hyacinth vine has also come into it's prime in this heat.

The purple flowering hyacinth vine started from last year’s seeds has also come into its prime in this heat.

On the other side of the house in the east garden, I have a huge amount of beautiful white iris that are struggling in the intense amount of afternoon sun, as well as lamb’s ears that are always looking bedraggled. They will both be removed as well. The garden on that side is now getting established, and the crepe myrtle trees have grown to a point that they are blocking an unappealing view, so I couldn’t be happier about that! I might not even install anything else in that garden, and leave them some extra space. Deep watering has kept them in good health, so just adding some extra mulch is all that is needed.

The underplanted iris and lamb's ears will be removed, and give the crepe myrtles so more space. They have grown quite a lot this season.

The underplanted iris and lamb’s ears will be removed to give the crepe myrtles more space. They are exceptional trees for hot climate and have grown quite a lot this season.

 

In the back yard, I have some renovating to do. After 20 plus years, and even a move from our old house to this one, the planters we built from pressure treated wood are on borrowed time. I am rethinking how we might rework a privacy screen for under the deck, and then add to the flowering bounty underneath. The knockout roses and beautiful peonies that I currently have in pots, as well as some of the white iris I am removing from the east garden will be planted there. I’ll increase the garden’s size to accommodate them as needed. They’re my “green children” after all!

I have a couple of beautiful photos to share of the Labor Day weekend’s sunset here, and a last photo of this summer’s front door — next time you see it, it will be decked out for autumn, and hopefully a lot cooler! Until then — Happy gardening!

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from ythe front garden.

The setting sun on Labor Day weekend from the front garden.

And a minute later-

And a minute later-

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun- goodbye summer!

Pink glow on the front door from the setting sun — goodbye summer! Hello Fall!

 

 

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The Best Summer Plants of 2016

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty.

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty. I can always count on them for at least a month’s worth of show.

The outside chores are done, and now it’s time for a nice cold iced tea. I’m going through photos from this summer’s garden and want to share some of the plants and flowers that are thriving in my garden in this heat wave. These are my picks for this season’s best here — please let me know what your favorites have been in your corner of the world!

I took this photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird's eye view.

I took this front porch photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird’s eye view. The ivy in the flower pots has gotten huge and looks great year round. I just change the center flowers each season.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the window box under the deck.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the protected window box under the deck.

I think these "King Kong" coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer-

These “King Kong” coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer — very tropical!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already, and always are a classic fav!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already and always are a classic fav!

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide them into 4 to 6 new plants.

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide each one into 4 to 6 new plants. In the late summer, they will have purple blooms.

My little friend loves these boxwood- I think he's happy anywhere in the shade!

My little friend loves these boxwood — He’s happy anywhere in the shade! Boxwood have always been a wonderful walkway plant here in Mount Vernon dating back to the days of George Washington.

Up on the deck I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these by the driveway.

Up on the deck, I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these planted by the driveway. They love the sun and heat much more than I do!

And last but not least, I always have to include the curly willow trees. I always am happy watching their branches dance in the breeze.

And last but not least, the curly willow trees that are planted in three corners of the property. I always feel cooler watching their branches dance in the breeze.

 

 

Mid-Summer Check-In

So very hot! Almost 100 outside-

So very hot! Almost 100° outside! Stay hydrated…

It’s summer, all right! With temperatures approaching 100° here, there is no more comfortable place to be than in my basement at the computer, blogging without feeling guilty that I should be out working the garden. We have just passed the 4th of July, and now we move on to the “3H” time of summer: Hazy, Hot and Humid. No matter how long you live in the D.C. area, you never really get used to it. Water of all kinds is your friend — whether it’s the beach, pool, sprinkler or hose! And, please make sure to drink your eight glasses a day; it’s not fun to get dehydrated.

 

When it gets this hot it helps to keep the moisture in by stirring  up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Also boost the curb appeal!

When it gets this hot, it helps to keep the weeds down and moisture in by stirring up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Your flowers and veggies will love it, and also boosts the curb appeal!

 

 

 

 

With the exception of a couple of weeks in early June, this has been a very rainy season for us, and that has caused not only extreme growth on established bushes and trees, but also annuals and vegetables to rot because of heat and moisture. I had to replace all of mine, but they are looking fantastic now.

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color-

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color, and they are very hardy in the heat-

 

 

 

 

 

After losing the first set of annuals at the front door due to too much rain, I put in coleus. Sometimes I see plants in the nursery that seem to be doing so much better than others, so that’s what I bought. I love the huge colorful leaves! I have more of it growing on the back deck and in the window box — love it there, too.

 

Please remember to set out some water in the shade for 4 footed friends- it's greatly appreciated!

Stomper would like me to request that everyone set out some water in the shade for four-pawed friends — it’s greatly appreciated!

 

I  want to put out a reminder in this heat to please keep your bird baths filled with fresh water and a dish or two of water ideally in a shady spot for the wildlife. It’s sometimes hard to find clean water this time of the year for them, and it’s much appreciated!

I find myself just trying to keep up with the weeds when it gets hot like this even though I use a weed preventer in the garden beds. I’ve been adding some extra mulch here and there where it’s become thin and stirred it with a rake in other spots for good airflow to soil. This is a good practice to get into this time of year, and it boosts the curb appeal, too!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And while I was edging the other day, I found this wonderful heart shaped rock, nature’s gift!

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs.

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs. More on this soon.

 

 

 

 

I’m noticing about 100 brown spots in the grassy areas. They can be caused by so many things: fungus from too much rain, or a dull mower blade, pet spots or grubs like fire flies. I’m not sure what is causing mine, but I’m leaning towards the grubs idea. I’ll report more on this soon, and have a remedy for you, too, when I do.

 

 

 

Until then, try to stay cool — Happy Summer!

Some 911 for the Rain Soaked Garden

Too much rain!!!!

Enough already — Too much rain!!!!

Soaking as a sponge doesn’t even come close to how damp the garden has been here in the mid-Atlantic region. With more than a month of rainy days and only a few sunny ones mixed in, some extreme measures are needed here. Almost half of the flowers that I planted ended up rotting from it all. On the other hand, it caused a lot of the established plants to grow a ton of wimpy new growth because they were growing so fast. So here’s my 911 to help manage this crazy season’s issues.

 

 

 

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

First, if you have heavy rain in the forecast and have flower pots or planters go ahead and remove the drain dishes so that the rain will drain through and not become soggy. This is also a good idea in general, with so many mosquito-borne diseases this year. If the flower pots are not too heavy and you have some overhead coverage, like a porch or under a deck, carry the pots underneath before the rain so that the blooms do not get damaged or rot. I did this with my roses, and was very glad I did. Open blooms will be destroyed by the heavy rains. If this happens, deadhead the plants as soon as possible.

 

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

 

 

 

 

 

If your grass is thoroughly soaked, try to stay off of it until it dries. When it’s walked on with standing water, it crushes the soil, compacting it which can then lead to other problems and weeds down the road. Clover is really difficult to get rid of and seems to love compacted soil, as do dandelions, and many of the weeds that we try so hard to keep away.

 

 

If you have standing water in your lawn try not to walk on it, or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

If you have standing water in your lawn, like mine, try to not walk on it or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

It’s also not a good idea to mow when the lawn is wet. That rips the blades of grass, instead of cutting them, so you will get brown tips to your lawn- not a good look! Beware of using the mulching option on your mower when there has been this much rain, it is better to collect and compost the clippings until the soil has had some time to dry out. Mulching the lawn clippings right now can cause fungus and mold issues.

 

 

 

 

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

Where extremely fast growth has occurred on plants you may need to either stake the plants to give them some extra time to strengthen, or trim them up some. This is the time of year when azalea and rhododendron bushes should be trimmed anyway, now that they are done blooming. And with all this rain that we’ve had, a granular slow release fertilizer can be helpful. Keep an eye out for wilting, and trim it out, ASAP. That will hopefully halt any further disease.

One last thing: if you do see wilting and fungus that need to be trimmed out, please have a small container of rubbing alcohol that you can dip the blades of your trimmer into between cuts, so you won’t spread infection from plant to plant.

I hope that you won’t have much damage in your garden, like I did, but it can’t help to know some plant CPR just in case! Happy gardening!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here- bring on some sun!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here — bring on some sun!

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.

 

 

Spring Cleaning — Outside, Too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And Just Like That — SPRING!

Goodbye Ice and snow- we are ready for Spring!

Goodbye Ice and snow- we are ready for spring!

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

As soon as the snow melted the crocus appeared-

As soon as the snow melted the crocus appeared…

Followed quickly by the daffodils-

Followed quickly by the daffodils…

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

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

How to Fix Winter Storm Damage

Opening the drapery and finding more than 30 inches of snow from winter storm Jonas.

Opening the drapery and finding more than 30 inches of snow from winter storm Jonas. It was beautiful, but paralyzed the Washington region for a week!

We dodged a big one this week and are getting rain instead, but lately we have been using a four-letter word a little too much — SNOW! And a three-letter word, too — ICE!

Winter storms can really do some damage, and it didn’t surprise me that winter storm “Jonas” left some nasty damage in his wake a few weeks ago. I’ve got some ways to fix some of the worst damage, and ways to prevent damage in the future, as well as some interesting snow clearing tips for my readers. Hope you don’t have to use them anytime soon, but here they are just in case.

When you have really deep snow and drifts, it’s important to give first priority to clearing away the snow from your doors, and shovel a pathway out just in case you need to get out in an emergency.

Prioritize clearing a path out from your doors first. For safety!

Prioritize clearing a path out from your doors first. For safety!

 

Spreading a plastic tarp on your porch and stairs before a snowstorm makes it easy to clear off. I cleared this in about 1 minute!

Spreading a plastic tarp on your porch and stairs before a snowstorm makes it easy to clear off. I cleared this in about one minute!

Here’s my favorite new tip that I just tried out on my front porch. It is so easy to do, and I bet it saved an hour of shoveling!  Before a snow storm, just spread out a plastic tarp over your stairs and porch leaving a foot or two of extra length at your door. Weigh down the edges with bricks or large rocks to keep it from blowing away. When the storm is over, slowly lift the tarp from both sides. It is like teflon — the snow simply slides off leaving a clean and dry porch and stairs underneath. I wish I had known this trick years ago; what a time saver!

If you spiral a string or wire loosely from the bottom of a plant all the way up to the top, you can help the small branches from splitting open and breaking under the weight of the snow. Especially prone to splitting are boxwood and arborvitae.

If you spiral (every 6 inches or so) a string or wire loosely from the base of a plant all the way up to the top, you can help the small branches from splitting open and breaking under the weight of the snow. Especially prone to splitting are boxwood and arborvitae.

 

I get lots of questions about snow pack on plants, and whether or not to remove it. In most cases my best advice is to leave it alone, and let it melt away naturally. Most plants have an amazing ability of springing back to normal all by themselves, but there are some tips I want to share which help them stay strong in the face of heavy snow pack. Starting from the base of a plant, loosely spiral some string or wire  up through the branches to the top of the plant. I like to use this black plastic coated wire because it disappears into the branches, and is virtually invisible. This will help the plant to hold together and not split open under the weight of the snow. If you have extremely heavy wet snow you can very carefully lift it off with a spading fork or your hands. But, if the snow is frozen to the branches, it is best to leave it alone, it can easily tear the branches off.

Here's an example of how much spiraling a wire through the boxwood can help. The one on the right has it, and the one next to it doesn't. Makes all the difference!

Here’s an example of how much spiraling a wire through the boxwood can help. The one on the right has it, and the one next to it doesn’t. Makes all the difference!

Be mindful not to toss heavy shovels full of snow onto your plants when you are clearing your walkways and drives. It can be so heavy that it crushes the plants under the weight of the snow. If you have any broken branches, cut them off as soon as you can safely do so. To leave the broken/torn branches attached could cause disease to set in. Try to remember which plants those were and give them a really good pruning in the early spring to prevent damage in future winters.

Deep snow is extremely heavy 7 to 20 pounds/sq. ft. Try to stand straight while shoveling, and lift with your legs.

Deep snow is extremely heavy 7 to 20 pounds/sq. ft. Try to stand straight while shoveling, and lift with your legs.

We learned a lot from this deep snow, and can’t say this enough: work slowly, take lots of breaks, hydrate often, keep your back straight and lift with your legs. This is such heavy work, and it gives your heart a real workout!  Be careful out there! And, as the groundhog predicted, spring will arrive soon… CAN’T WAIT!!!!

 

 

 

 

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!