Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anyone For Lasagna?

New Lasagna Garden
I mentioned in my "Crabapple Blossoms" posting that I was extending the shade garden using the lasagna method. My good friend Laura of Patio Patch, who gardens in England, wondered if it meant the bed would not be ready for planting for a while. As you can see, Laura, just a couple of weeks have passed and it's all finished! All I did was put down a thick layer of newspaper, followed by a layer of mulch, then more newspaper. I added a layer of peatmoss, and topped it with more mulch. I watered each layer thoroughly before adding the next. I let the new bed "sit" for a week-or-two before planting.

The term for this layering method was coined by Patricia Lanza who wrote the book Lasagna Gardening. The book's subtitle is A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! I think that says it all - she does not exaggerate! Actually, I started gardening in this way long before I knew about her book. I did it out of necessity, when I found I couldn't get a spade to penetrate the rocky soil of the Pocono Mountains. There is a joke in this neighborhood, "What is a trowel called in the Poconos?" The answer is, "A backhoe!" (That's a "digger" to my British friends.)

I began making the shade garden in 2005, using the no-dig method. Here are some before-and-after pictures...

I marked out the area with rocks -- free rocks are plentiful on this mountain!
I began the layering process.
I added a focal point (statue) and plantings. Note there was no stockade fence back then.
I made a small seating-area where the new lasagna bed now resides.
Shade garden today extended to the picket fence.
If you look back to my lead picture in this posting, you will see that in the new bed I planted three hostas, three ferns, and a sweetshrub.  For ground cover I added lamium and sweet woodruff. This is how the shade garden looked this morning from outside the picket fence ...

The lovely shrub against the stockade fence is a mock orange.

Mock orange Philadelphus coronarius
As well as finishing the new bed, I did a few other gardening jobs this weekend, such as (rather a lot of) weeding in the cottage garden -- with all the rain, the weeds act like they are on steroids.  I started planting the vegetable garden. Also, I needed to cut back some of the perennial bullies, including a rather unruly honeysuckle ...

The pink honeysuckle on the other arbor is much better behaved ...

Pink Honeysuckle Lonicera hispidula

Lonicera hispidula

 The first of my many clematis is in bloom ....

Clematis Clematis x jackmanii 'Mrs. Cholmondeley'

 I have several types of iris. This is my favorite ...

Iris Iris sibirica

 The rhododendron is putting on a superb show this year ...

Rhododendron spp.

Rhododendron spp.

I hope those of you who celebrate Memorial Day had a wonderful holiday weekend! Like many other families, we had our first cookout of the season. After an early-morning thunder storm, the weather cooperated. Now we are entering a heat wave. Oh, dear, and I am still planting my vegetable garden -- but that's a posting for next week ...

Happy Gardening!
Pamela x

Astolat Farm

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Said Shrubs Are Boring?

Sweetshrub Calycanthus floridus
Let's take a 'shrub walk' around my garden. I will show you that shrubs are beautiful, often exciting, and a good low-maintenance choice. A couple of posts ago, after reading Sydney Eddison's book, Gardening for a Lifetime, I discussed replacing high-maintenance perennials with shrubs. My posting, Standards of Good Behavior for a Perennial, elicited some interesting comments. I learned that some gardeners find shrubs boring, but I hope they change their opinion after our walk together.

We will start in the shade garden where the sweetshrub's buds are about to open (above). The flowers and the leaves of the sweetshrub, sometimes called Carolina allspice, are fragrant. In the picture below the sweetshrub is in the foreground, with ferns, hostas, and various groundcovers beneath.

A patchwork of plants in the shade garden.
Also in the shade garden I have hydrangea and clethra, called summer sweet, which I will photograph in the summer when they bloom. Two 'golden mound' spiraea each side of the statue brighten a shady area. They develop small, pink flowers that are unremarkable - I bought the shrubs for their chartreuse-colored leaves.

Two gold-mound spiraea Spiraea japonica anchor the statue
As we walk around the front of the house we discover a very different kind of spiraea, the lovely bridal veil, so aptly named with branches that arch gracefully to the ground.

Blossoms of the Bridal veil spiraea

Bridal veil spiraea Spiraea vanhoutte

I love white blooms and there are many in my spring garden, including the beautiful snow azalea.

Snow azalaea Rhododendron mucronulatum
I don't know the name of this variety of red azalea. I like the dramatic effect of the red blossoms against the green-textured globe arborvitae.

Azalea and globe arborvitae

The flower buds of the rhododendron are about to burst open.

Rhododendron spp.
All across the garden we can smell the sweet perfume of the Russian olive, pulling us into the Woodland Walk. We cross the bridge over bluebell creek - how happy the English bluebells make me feel - and enter the woodland garden.

Although the Russian olive and the wild honeysuckle are invasive, causing H.H. to spend many hours trying to eradicate them, for a short time in the spring we are glad they are blooming there.

Honeysuckle and Russian olive in the Woodland Walk

Bush honeysuckle Diervilla lonicera

Russian Olive
The new leaves on the andromeda are brilliant red. I am happy to grow this shrub in the Woodland Walk because the deer find it unappealing.

Japanese andromeda Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire'

Now follow me into the perennial garden where I have some evergreen, non-flowering shrubs. Their columnar and global shapes add structure where it could otherwise look 'disorganized' - the nature of the cottage-garden style. The two different views, below, of one of my biota in the spring cottage garden illustrate my point.

Golden Biota Platycladus cupressaceae

Another view of the biota.

At the end of the summer, my favorite shrub, caryopteris, blooms.

Blue Mist Shrub Caryopteris 'Dark Night'. September 2010

Caryopteris with carpenter bee. September 2010
Later in the summer, you will see two butterfly bushes, one pink and one purple. The pink one is my favorite.

Butterfly bush Buddleja davidii August 2010

Now I must show you my latest aquisition, a viburnum that we planted today. I have wanted one for a long time. The one I purchased grows quite large ( 15' high and 15' wide), so we located it in front of the ugly pasture fence, hoping it will eventually hide it. The clusters of pure white flowers, arranged in two rows above the branches, make a lovely spring display.

Maries' Viburnum Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii'
I have other wonderful shrubs in my garden, but I hope I have shown you enough to convince you that shrubs are a suitable alternative to perennial flowers. I assure you they require less maintenance.

Below, you can see some of the flowers we saw blooming as we walked, today. Clockwise, from the top left: iris, lupine, English bluebells, chive, peony bud with bee, and snow-in-summer.

And some of the critters we saw ...

Tree Swallow

Female ruby-throated hummingbird

Three indigo buntings in the catalpa tree.

I  hope you enjoyed walking with me!

Happy Gardening, Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Crabapple Blossoms On May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

 "The world's favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May."

-  Edwin Way Teale

Spring arrived very late this year, but was worth the wait. After nearly a week of warm, dry, sunny weather the crabapple burst into rosy bloom.

Crabapple Malus sp.

 The red azalea at the front of the house bloomed, also, and the white azaleas have flower buds ready to open.

Korean Azalea Rhododendron yedoense var,

Around the pond, spikes of ajuga make mats of jagged purple.

Bugleweed Aju

One pretty veronica plant blooms in the perennial border.

Veronica Veronica 'Christy'

The heady smell of lilac fills the air. The wren must be intoxicated by the lilac blooms at her front door.

Lilac Syringa vulgaris
In the shade garden, the lamium's purple flowers carpet the ground ...

Deadnettle Lamium

... and sweet lily-of-the-valley blooms there.

Lily-of-the-Valley convallaria majalis

Most of the daffodils in the perennial border have faded, except for the tiny, white ones that my mother called jonquils.

Daffodil Narcissus

But May is not only about blooms, it is about important garden work. This is my busiest month of the year, necessitating several trips to the garden center. On one such trip, to purchase mushroom compost, I found this lovely cast-concrete flower-fairy. More expensive than I was prepared to pay, I noticed she had a broken wing, and persuaded the storekeeper to sell her to me for $20.

I found just the spot for her with her back to a wall, so you cannot see the broken wing.

H.H. and I set to work mulching the rose bed ...

... and the perennial borders.

I decided to extend the shade-garden into the corner by the picket fence, building up the corner using a no-dig (lasagna) method: layering newspaper, compost, and peatmoss, just like making a lasagna. The completed new bed will house three large hostas that I must relocate into a more shady spot than their current home.

Talking of hostas, the bed planted by H.H.'s mother promises to grow higher than ever this year-

But May is not just for flowers, blossoming trees, and spring-garden chores. I look forward to the birds' morning chorus, as I take my early stroll around the garden each new day.  I watch the tree swallows checking out the blue-bird boxes, looking for a place to build a nest. I see butterflies and bees, again. The frog sings to his ladyfriend. They think they are completely hidden in the parrot's feather plant.

Every afternoon, in the top field, a red fox pup plays and rolls around, until his mother makes him return to the shelter of the woods.

In the kitchen garden the promise of summer lies in the first strawberry flower.

Strawberry 'Allstar'

Spring came very late this year, but was worth the wait. After a spell of warm, dry, sunny weather the crabapple tree burst into rosy bloom.

Now it is time to visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see blooms around the world on this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Please join me there!  

Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.