Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Garden Year in Review

End of July 2014
“Every garden has the potential for perfection because it will never be finished, because the elements that make it a garden … are in constant flux and you can never step into the same garden twice.” --  Frank Ronan

My 2014 garden peaked at the end of July, late but lovely, with an abundance of cleome that I planted to replace the diseased purple cone flowers.  The cleome, meant to be a stopgap while waiting for the newly planted bee balm to fill out, will undoubtedly reseed itself everywhere -- a good thing as the bee balm succumbed to powdery mildew, so I yanked it out. I enjoyed several gardening successes (such as the cleome) and some disappointments (like the bee balm) but all-in-all it was a great gardening year.

The year began with the customary seed starting. I sowed trays of annuals and vegetables in the house, eventually moving them to the potting shed, then into the garden after the last frost date. All thrived, especially the snapdragons. It was an excellent year for snapdragons.

I organize my seeds according to the date they need sowing
Snapdragon Antirrhinum 'Cinderella Mix'

As soon as the ground was no longer frozen, I began my biggest project for 2014, reworking the small round bed at the foot of the deck. Gooseneck loosestrife had crowded out other plants, therefore it had to go.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

I took the opportunity to expand the flowerbed and to plant native plants - non-aggressive ones, of course.  The resulting new Horseshoe Garden is the topic of my next posting. It is too early to say if the horseshoe bed is a success as a whole, but the snapdragons I planted at the front edge were stunning and I intend to grow them from seed again next year.

Horseshoe garden in the spring

Spring was late, and so very welcome!...

The spring cottage garden was pretty with foxgloves and peonies.

I lost roses to the harsh winter. The yellow Knockout was the only prolific survivor, but Japanese beetles consumed most of the blooms. Roses are such a challenge in this area.

With the late-July peaking of the cottage garden, the pond came into its own. The water stayed very clear all season, because of the cool weather. Also, we shaded the pond with a beautiful lotus plant. I love those big, umbrella leaves. Hopefully, it will flower next year if we are successful with its overwintering.

Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera

The cottage garden, which my grandson calls 'Octupus's Garden,' provided winning blooms for the West End Fair. I won several first place ribbons for flowers, produce and displays.

The kitchen garden produced vegetables through to December

On the down side, powdery mildew was rampant, infecting several blooms and vegetables.

Phlox and Beebalm were infected with powdery mildew

I did not see many monarch butterflies in my garden this year, although I planted more milkweed. I do hope 2015 will see their return.

A rare visitor.

New for 2014 were the miniature gardens my grandson and I created. We plan more for next year.

New for 2015 and some challenges:

In addition to more fairy gardens, there will be new spring flowers, as I planted 200+ bulbs. Daffodils will greet you on each side of the path to the front door. Hopefully, there will be tulips and crocuses in the entry garden -- if the squirrels didn't get all of them. Also, I planted alliums in the cottage garden.

There will be daffodils each side of the path next spring.

There are a couple of challenges: 

First, we now have a large, ugly, whole-house generator in the stone garden. I am so happy to have the generator for when/if another hurricane hits and knocks the power out, but I need to find some way to disguise it. Maybe plantings, picket fencing or pots of flowers? There's not much space there, so I don't yet know what I'm going to do. 

Secondly, a skunk knocked over the 'naked lady' (as my grandchildren called the statue) in the shade garden and it smashed into small pieces. I'm fairly certain it was a skunk because some creature had pushed over a large pumpkin I placed nearby and the pumpkin had a hole in it shaped like holes a skunk makes. Also, the lawn nearby was covered with skunk holes. The challenge is to find a focal point that's not too expensive and creates a similar mood. I'm looking.

The 'naked lady' has graced the shade garden from its beginning

Not a perfect gardening season, but pretty close to it. And to use the mantra of all gardeners, 'There's always next year.' I think you understand when I say I credit my garden with helping me survive a very difficulty year fraught with sickness and loss. I love my garden. I am indeed blessed to have it.
'What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
-- Ezra Pound

Happy New Year my friends,
Pamela x


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Bounty from the Summer Garden

'Bounty' is definitely the wrong word here, because it denotes 'abundance' and 'plenty.' I am thrilled, however, that the cool season crops I planted in late August yielded enough red beets for me to pickle. I canned six jars of them this week, not a bounty, but my late planting of cool-season crops, a 'first' for me, also resulted in an abundance of lettuce, radishes, and spinach. In spite of benign neglect, partly due to time away from home, and partly due to the little rabbit who removed the tops of so many vegetables in the springtime, my kitchen garden produced more than enough food for the two of us. You will find green beans, snow peas, rhubarb, and shredded zucchini (for zucchini bread) in my freezer. We ate the last cabbage with dinner last night. Plenty of onions, red and yellow, await my culinary efforts, plus those six jars of pickled beets in my canning cupboard. Our favorite root vegetable, the parsnip, grows sweeter by remaining in the ground. Surely, many of you have a bigger bounty, but I'm happy with mine.

Read all about my 2014 kitchen garden by clicking here.

Cool weather crops: beets, lettuce, spinach, and radishes
I prepared the bed for the first frost.
Fleece protected the crops until I harvested them.
Just a small tray of beets, but enough for me to can.
Only 6 jars, but better than none.
All onions are harvested now. I dig up parsnips as needed as long as the ground isn't frozen.
Last week I picked the last of the spinach for my son-in-law who loves it.

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings, Carol of May Dreams Gardens, and Mary Ann who blogs at Gardens of the Wild, Wild West started a virtual garden club for everyone growing their own food, flowers or herbs. Click on the 'Dear Friends and Gardeners' badge in my sidebar to learn more about it. I'm joining too late for this year, but I am all ready for 2015 when I plan on writing monthly postings about my kitchen garden.

Speaking of Dee, I must tell you I received some exciting news this morning: I won a fantastic prize for participating in a cyber book party that I first learned about on Dee's blog. The party, thrown by Fran Soren at Gardening Gone Wild, celebrated the 10th Anniversary and re-release of her groundbreaking book, Digging Deep. I'm reading Fran's book right now and recommend it for all gardeners. I won Prize #1 – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner. An early Christmas present; how fantastic! I am overjoyed! When the seeds arrive, I will begin planning my 2015 garden and will post more about the competition and prize.

Now back to writing Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, and decorating the house ... busy, busy season. Have a wonderful one!

Pamela x

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

December's Wintery Breath

 "December's wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memories." -- John Geddes
 Winter came early this year. I've already changed my morning routine to watching birds instead of looking at flowers. I don't walk around the garden, coffee in hand, planning the day's gardening activities. But take my coffee sitting in my favorite armchair near the French windows in the garden-room, enjoying my feathered friends at feeder and water dish.  The catalpa tree has a large branch that frames the French windows. H.H. hangs a bird feeder from this branch and the birds sit in the tree taking turn flying to the feeder and to the heated water dish on the porch below. They are in clear view of me and my camera. So I can thank the catalpa tree for bringing the birds to me ... but for how long?
Titmouse waiting for his turn at the feeder

Bluebird waiting to drink from the water dish.
H.H. provides a heated water dish for the critters in winter.

The northern catalpa, c. speciosa, has large, heart-shaped leaves. Its early summer flowers become broad, dark, pendulous seed pods that persist all winter. It tolerates dry soil and will grow in part or full shade. H.H.'s mother planted the catalpa to give shade. She raised Shetland sheepdogs and planted two more catalpas near the kennel for the same purpose. Those two fast-growing, short-lived trees are gone now, and I feel sad that the remaining tree is declining.

In summer we drink tea under the catalpa and its neighboring maple tree. When H.H. and his sister were children, they slung a hammock between the two trees -- a fond memory.
Early summer catalpa blossoms frame the shade garden.
The attractive heart-shaped leaves and white blossoms of the catalpa tree.
The catalpa and maple trees are very tall, towering over the house.
 "Of winter's lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer's secret
Deep down within its heart."
-- Charles G. Slater

The catalpa tree attracts many critters including woodpeckers and nuthatches. There are lots of squirrels, of course. On one memorable afternoon, a bear spent several hours sitting on that favorite branch.

Downy woodpecker,

Red bellied woodpecker


Black Bear.

I love this tree, but we have to make the hard decision to remove it before it falls on the house. Its branches have little bark remaining and its trunk may be hollow. We should do it soon, but it will be like losing an old friend.
"Friendship is a sheltering tree." -- Coleridge
 In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the birds the tree brings to me as I mark the seasonal change. I am joining with Donna at Gardens Eye View for her Seasonal Celebrations. Do check out her 'Winter Wonders' posting and join in the celebration.

Enjoy winter, or whatever the season where you live!
Pamela x

Bluebird in catalpa tree.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter

Tens of millions of Americans awoke this morning to record cold and snow. We had only a dusting at my house, but it was too cold for me to venture outside. I took a few blurry pictures through the windows. The bluebirds were checking out H.H.'s bird houses as they decided where to shelter in the bitter weather.

A dusting of snow on the grass, driveway and potting shed roof.

My mini horse and goat find a patch of sun and wait patiently for breakfast.

We spent most of this past week outside 'winterizing' so that our garden is ready for whatever Old Man Winter brings. It took H.H. and I more than a day to close the fishpond. We switched off the waterfall and the spitter, cleaned all filters, and put the bubbler in place. We emptied out a third of the water and skimmed the leaves and guck from the bottom. We removed the plants and I cut them back and trimmed the roots. Placing them in milk crates with rope 'handles,' we lowered them into the bottom of the pond. Finally, we slowly added fresh water and salt (for the health of the fish.) We positioned bamboo canes (the former runner-bean tepee) across the pool as supports for netting which we anchored with rocks. The netting will prevent debris from falling into the clean water, and most important will protect the fish from predators.

I always feel sad when it is time to switch off the waterfall. I like the way the parrot's feather grew down this year.
We take all plants out of the water and cut them back, then place on the bottom in crates.
Wet added salt for the health of our koi.
The pond this morning with a dusting of snow around it on the grass and driveway.

As well as winterizing the fishpond, we cut back perennials, weeded, and raked leaves. I love the fall color of the gooseneck loosestrife, but it had to go. H.H. uses a hedge trimmer to cut down large drifts of plants like this.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

It is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I'm afraid my fall blooms are now just a memory. I am glad I took some photographs this week before they all disappeared. Several blooms survived the frost until this morning.

One lonely foxglove.

Yarrow 'The pearl'; catmint Nepata 'Walkers Low'; perennial geranium 'Rozanne'
The very last of the roses.
The snapdragons hung on until the very end.

One of the most time-consuming jobs is putting away all the statues, garden ornaments, and patio furniture. We almost finished. This morning, just a few pots and a sundial are waiting to go down into the basement.

Although the garden flowers are gone, I have a beautiful Christmas cactus in bloom in the house.

So does Carol of May Dreams Gardens who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Do check out her posting.

Happy GBBD dear friends,

Pamela x

Earlier in the week we saw the last frog to be awake this year!

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