Green Thumbs Up
I am not a fan of these furry creatures. They wreak havoc in my backyard, and we have no shortage of them. Why? One reason is the Carya laciniosa - or Shellbark Hickory - in our neighbor's yard. The tree offers an abundance of "fruit", and it is a messy tree. Right now, it is what we call "hard hat season" in the yard. The nuts - which are humongous - are either falling off the tree, or the squirrels just can't keep their grubby little paws on them. These nuts hit the ground - or the neighbor's metal roof shed - with a resounding "thud". If one strikes you on the head ... you'll know it. Also, when the squirrels are chewing through the thick shells, little pieces of shell rain down from the tress ... and it sounds like rain falling. The pieces get everywhere, and I'm certain they're affecting the pH of the soil. Argh!
Call me silly ... but not all garden hoses are created equal. I stumbled upon this one a couple of years ago at Home Depot. It was marketed under the name AgraLab, and I liked it so much, I immediately bought another. I went back the next year to get more, but they seemed to have vanished. I went on-line and still couldn't find them. Earlier this year, I was at Always the Garden describing this beloved coil hose, and Tim Ross went over to one of the shelves and handed this one to me ... now marketed by Flexon. Basically the same hose ... minus some of the accessories that came with the hoses I had purchased several years earlier. The Flexon hose doesn't come in disco colors, like some I have owned, but it's far more durable and doesn't kink-up like the others. The hose material is strong and the couplings are durable. I'm in hose heaven again!
A True Garden Gem
Ah ... finally ... my Clethra alnifolia "Ruby Spice" has come into bloom. I realize it has a different location, and therefore micro-clime, than "Hummingbird", but I didn't think it would take weeks for it to release it's pleasant scent into the backyard. Oh well ... I don't love it any less, and I still think it's a super addition to the landscape ... especially since it's not a fussy plant and seems to be handling the nasty-wasty hot weather in stride. Admittedly, I do water all plants on these super hot days, and they all get deep waterings over the weekend.
Sweet Smell of Summer
The past few days, I've been greeted with the lovely aroma of Clethra alnifolia "Hummingbird" when I've stepped out the back door. Also referred to a Sweet Pepperbush this shrub is a proven winner. The white flowers are fragrant; I find the scent quite pleasing, although some might consider it cloying. I have a moon garden in the very back of my yard, and I love the contribution this woody ornamental makes to it. I also have a "Ruby Spice" in another area. It isn't in bloom just yet.
Astil ... my beating heart
Yea .. i know it's weak. Forgive me. Astilble - sometimes referred to as False Goat's Beard - is a wonderful addition to my shade garden. Right now, mine are in bloom, and their feathery foliage and blooms can't help but bring a smile to the face. Mine are pink and red, but they are also available in white and lavendar. They're easy to grow and not very fussy. Gotta love 'em!
In 'the Swim of It
As I prepared to feed the fish in my pond the other day, I noticed a small frog sitting on the ledge ... waiting for a tasty morsel to fly by, and I was so excited! I tried to get pooches Zeus and Rox interested, but they were more focused on ridding the backyard from the scurge of squirrels. My pond is modest. It's a 125 gallon free form that a Master Gardener friend, my husband, and I constructed 14 years ago. Despite a pond expert telling me our handful of fish would never reproduce, we now have in excess of 30 fish. I call them the OPO's (Oh Precious Ones). I did the hardscaping with fieldstone around the perimeter, so yes ... it looks homemade. However, we do enjoy having the sound of the running water in the backyard and watching the eco-system change from season to season. It helps make our backyard a pleasant and serene environment ... for the most part. Now ... If the dogs ever succeed in keeping those rascally squirrels at bay, we'll be set.
photo courtesy of internet. It's not my pond.
A Weed by Any Other Name
This week, my Asclepias tuberosa started to burst forth with bloom. Also known as Butterfly weed or Butterfly milkweed, this stunning perennial likes sun and tolerates dry conditions. As the name indicates, butterflies flock to it, so do bees. Mine is orange, but other colors are now available. Once the blooms fade, attractive seed pods add an extra season of garden interest.
Capping Off the Garden
Another suggestion from Tim and the bunch at Always the Garden is my Hydrangea macrophylla normalis... or Lace Cap Hydrangea, which is not in bloom. It's beauty is subtle, and in many ways it's an easier keep than the mop-head varieties: soil pH doesn't seem to affect the color as dramatically and the flower heads don't need to be staked/supported. I'm a fan!
This week, my Bignonia capreolata "tangerine beauty" has taken center stage in the back yard! Tim Ross and his bunch at Always the Garden suggested this semi-evergreen vine when I was looking for something to plant next to an arbor. Needless to say ... I LOVE it. It's blooming profusely right now, and I will most likely get another round of blooms later on in the growing season. This is a wonderful, carefree addition to the garden.
photo courtesy of beegreengardens.com
3 Scents Worth (every square inch of ground they cover)
Spring is such a joyful time in the garden thanks to some fragrant groundcovers I've managed not to kill!
A couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to find my Galium odoratum, or Sweet Woodruff, in bloom. This perennial groundcover has not only fragrant flowers, but also nicely scented leaves. It's not toxic to dogs, so I don't have to worry when the pooches go rooting through it.
Last week, it was the smell of Convallaria majalis, or Lily of the Valley, that greeted me when I stepped out the back door. These white coral bells upon a tender stalk are highly toxic to dogs, so I do have to keep an eye on the pooches.
This week, it's the Dianthus gratianopolitanus, or Bath's Pink, that delights the senses. This evergreen groundcover is so easy to grow; I've divided and given away so many trays of it over the past 20 years, and I still have an abundance about the yard. That's fine by me, because the spicy scent is quite welcoming!
No More Bedtime for Bonsai
So ... over the weekend, while others were hunting for colored eggs and getting together for Easter Dinner, I decided it was time to take my bonsai out of winter storage. I moved the less hardy trees from my Greento and started pulling others from the pit. So far, so good ... no casualties. Yesterday, I took the Tropicals outside from their winter hang-out in the house. This morning, I could tell that all were exceedingly happy to be getting some unfiltered sun.
Scents and Sensibility
Last week, when I was taking the pooches out for one of their after dark back yard excursions, I had no sooner set foot on the back stoop when it hit me ... that tride and true scent ! "The Syringa vulgaris is in bloom" I exclaimed! The dogs were unimpressed. As they scampered about for their intended purpose, I walked to the corner of the yard where the Common Lilac lived. Tthis year, it was blooming profusely, and I knew I had to enjoy this shrub while I could because before long, it's leave's would turn silver with tell-tale signs of Powdery Mildew; it just goes with the terrifory. Michael A. Dirr, in his gardener's bible "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" states in black and white that the Common Lilac's only true landscape value is that of nostaligia ... that in our zone, the plants do not prosper, lack vigor and bloom unreliably. Oh ... but when they do bloom, who can resist that lovely fragrance. If that makes me "nostaligic" I don't mind being guilty as charged.
photo courtesy of thefreedictionary.com
Not the Best Pear
The storm over the weekend caused a bit of damage around the area .... though nothing compared to what the Southeast had to deal with. In any event, the high winds dislodged a major branch on one the Prunus calleryana (Bradford Pear) trees at the entrance to our neighborhood. I was reminded that, as a Volunteer Master Gardener through UD Cooperative Extension, I learned that this particular tree is not a good choice for the landscape. Although an eye-catcher this time of year because of it's beautiful white blossoms and in the fall with it's rich Autumn color, the trees are native to China and Korea and are short lived here in the US. 20 years is about the average life span of a Bradford Pear on American soil ... this due to their vigorous growth habit, weak wood and poor branch structure; they have a real tough time withstanding the wicked weather that Spring brings us.
photo courtesty of midwestgardentips.com
A Summer Treat
My mother's favorite flowering shrubs were Azalea and Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), so I come by my appreciation of these woody ornamentals honestly. But ... if I had to choose which one I like the BEST, I would have to say Crape Myrtle. I mean no disrepect to Azalea, but it's part of a symphony of Spring color; it shares it's slendor with a progression of other shrubs and trees that bloom for about a week to 10 days: Magnolia, Bradford Pear, Cherry, Rhododendron, Eastern Redbud, Pieris and Flowering Quince ... to name a few The Crape Myrtle is a solo performer, bursting with color at a time of year when the treescape is verdantly monochromatic. Clusters of bold magenta, deep purple, lovely lilac, pastel pink and tride 'n true white delight the eye during a time of year when the heat and humidity have taken their toll on so many other seasonal favorites. And ... some cultivars of Crape Myrtle have exfoliating bark, giving them interest in the landscape through-out the balance of the year. It handles pruning well, so you can keep it as a shrub or allow it to grow to the size of a small tree, where its Summer display can truly dazzle. And the blooms last for WEEKS! Indeed ... a Summer treat.
Before the monsoons over the past week, I was beginning to get concerned about the ground; it was like concrete, and I had flashbacks of the droughts of the late 90's and early 00's. For the most part, when I'm watering my bonsai and container plants, I use water from my rain barrel. Then I tap into the reserves .... trash cans filled with water from our dehumidifiers and air conditioner. We don't have a sump pump (although we probably should), so the dehumidifiers have buckets that need to be emptied a couple of times a day (great duty for a husband). The air conditioner condensate drains into our utility sink, so I have a little pail collecting that water. It's surprising how much water can be collected in one day from such sources. Although condensate water is inert, I still find it most useful during dry periods for watering the plants in the beds around the house. I never water the grass because it is truly a waste of precious resources. New lawns are a different story, but existing lawns just go dormant during dry spells, turning a lovely shade of brown *grin*, but they perk up mighty fast once the heavens open up.
I was watching CBS3 this morning and heard a story by Jim Donovan about a website that can help us with our gardening efforts. It's http://www.yourgardenshow.com , and It's like an encyclopedia of gardening advice, with photos of plants and tips on how and where to best grow them. There's even a glog, where you can keep track of your own garden. Woo-hoo!
Typically at this time of year I'm mourning the loss of a bonsai that didn't make it through the winter. This year was different. For first time since I added conifers and deciduous trees to my collection, I didn't lose a single tree. However, I did lose my favorite Cercis canadensis (Eastern Red Bud) "Forest Pansy". I was talking to Mr Kern of Kern's Brothers at the Rare Plant Auction for the Delaware Center for Horticulture, and he told me it had been a particularly bad winter for C. canadensis - even well-established trees; I wasn't alone in my loss. The other day, I decided it ws time to remove another winter casualty, my precious Syringa meyeri Pablibin "Little Kim" (Korean Lilac). Then I noticed it was beginning to leaf out and flower. Of course, not all of the branches showed signs of life, so I removed them, and breathed a sigh of relief that this little shrub had been spared. Now if only that "Forest Pansy" would show signs of life ... I would begin to believe in miracles.