Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Cottage Garden: Year in Review

It's the eve of a new decade and several television channels are looking back on events that took place in 2019.  It may not have been the best for our country, but it was a wonderful year for my garden with awards from garden organizations and a photo shoot for a national magazine. Each month, in spite of the unpredictable weather and other setbacks, the gardens couldn't have looked better. I attempted a few new projects, such as creating a rain garden, as well as working hard to maintain the tried and true. I've assembled some photographs to illustrate our fantastic year.

I forced bulbs and grew a winter indoor garden of amaryllis and paperwhites that flourished well into January and beyond. Several winter-blooming houseplants such as poinsettias and Christmas cacti added more color. I place green houseplants in any room that has enough light, doing all I can to get my plant-fix all year round.

My favorite amaryllis is Amaryllis (Hippeastrum 'Picottee')
Outdoors, January 2019 brought some dramatic ice storms.

February welcomed the 22nd Annual Great Backyard Bird Count. I have participated in this citizen science project for many years. With other birdwatchers of all ages around the world, I count birds in my backyard to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are. The statistics are amazing: last year there were 210,030 checklists submitted, 6,850 species and a total of 3,248,537 birds observed. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society use the data to understand birds' complex distribution and movements. I urge you to take part in this fun and valuable event. The next one is February 14 - February 17, 2020. Go to gbbc.birdcount.org to learn how to participate.

Love, love those backyard birds.

March 2019 came in like a lion with a blanket of snow. As the white stuff melted, the first snowdrops and crocuses were revealed. There were hellebore buds and many other signs that winter was coming to an end.

Some of my favorite Galanthus

April 2019 brought a bird that we didn't want to see in our garden. A large blue heron stole several large koi fish from our pond. We placed a decoy heron on the bank and it didn't return. Duane placed more clay pipes, rocks, and places for the fish to hide deep on the bottom. We no longer cover the pond with a net because a heron will spear the fish through the net and mutilate the poor creature as it attempts to pull it through the holes. Nature can be very cruel.

Great Blue Heron Leaving Our Pond

The stars of my April garden clockwise from top left: Helleborus; Fritillaria meleagris; Double white daffodil;
Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis; Weeping redbud, Cercis Canadensis 'Lavender Twist'

It's become a tradition that Grandson Jonathan visits Memorial Day weekend to help plant the vegetable garden. This year he also made a new miniature garden and redid his established ones. Here are three of them:
Jon's miniature gardens. The new one is at the top.

Spring was extremely wet and soggy, so my May project was the rain garden. I installed it to collect water that was flooding a cottage-garden bed -- indicative of the changing weather patterns due to global warming.

I made a deep basin and some less-deep basins for a small rain garden

I planted the rain garden with native plants that tolerate both wet and dry conditions. By the end of June they began to fill out.

The Rain Garden in June

The vegetables and cutting garden that Jon and I planted also began to fill out.  We had direct-seeded many of the vegetables. The cutting garden plants, such as zinnias, I had started indoors over the last several months.

The June Kitchen Garden and Cutting Garden
I was delighted that the climbing hydrangea in the Serenity garden (top) bloomed for the first time. The bench is new. The irises in the Horseshoe Garden were stunning, as always.

July brought renowned photographer, Rob Cardillo, to take pictures of our gardens for Country Gardens magazine. The two-day shoot was very exciting and extremely interesting. Stylist, Samantha Thorpe, staged the shots. Sam will write the story for the magazine that will be published in their Summer 2020 edition.

Photo by Samantha Thorpe

In addition, a local TV program, Pocono Landscape Challenge, filmed a 30 minute show featuring me in my garden. You can watch it HERE.
The garden peaked in time for the photoshoot

A great many pollinators: humming birds, butterflies, and bees, visited our gardens this summer. We had lots of monarch and swallowtail caterpillars, too.

Hummingbird visiting the fuschia hanging basket on the back porch.
Joe pye (top right) and zinnia (bottom left) were two butterfly magnets.

But all was not perfect in my 2019 paradise. The invasive Japanese stiltgrass that is spreading rampantly through our fields and Woodland Walk began to encroach on some of my flowerbeds. I'm trying various control methods, one of which is cutting it down before it goes to seed. Unfortunately, some of it had gone to seed before Duane could remove it with the weedwacker. I believe it will be my biggest challenge in 2020.

Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)

On a happier note, the cosmos were glorious and lasted until the first frost in early November.

October, however, brought good and bad news. I'll start with the bad news: the tree company felled the catalpa that shaded the garden on the west side of the house. This is upsetting on several levels. First, we already lost the silver maple that stood alongside the catalpa tree; together they provided the BEST shade. All the plants that were under their canopies are shade lovers. Second, the silver maple and the catalpa were part of my husband's childhood -- with memories of a hammock and shady places to play in hot summers. Third, the branches of the catalpa framed the garden room's French door.  I would sit in my favorite armchair and take photographs of the birds that rested on the branches as they waited their turn on the bird feeder. I haven't been able to take such natural pictures anywhere else. Yes, the catalpa will be sorely missed. 

The good news is that I had a letter from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society saying they awarded my garden a blue ribbon in their annual garden contest.  I will receive a 2019 plaque for my garden -- I've received two before -- you can see them in my sidebar. I feel very honored.

By the beginning of November, I had put most of the garden to bed. I left many perennials standing to provide protection for insects and other wildlife. The growing season wa
s over in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') living up to its name.

We've not had too much snow as yet. Yesterday started warmer than average with heavy rain showers and strong winds. A cold front moved in during the afternoon resulting in some alarming flashes of lightening and loud claps of thunder. We have snow flurries forecast later today. It seems like we have three or four seasons in the space of 24 hours. Crazy weather.

Yes, 2019 was very wonderful in spite of some setbacks. How was your year?

Wishing you, dear gardening friends, a happy and healthy 2020!
Pamela x

Honeysuckle and Petunias

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Early December in the Cottage Garden

One of several good reasons for NOT cutting down all your perennials in the fall is the winter interest they provide. I always wanted a four-season garden; it's taken me a few years of thoughtful planting to achieve my desire. With shrubs, miniature trees, evergreens, and allowing perennials to stand, many early December days were especially beautiful this year. We haven't had a measurable snowfall as yet in the Poconos, but there were frequent dustings of snow and ice that made my garden sparkle. Walk with me and I'll show you what I mean:

Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) not only look lovely in snow but also the seeds are prized by goldfinches
Snow-covered Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) peeping through the fence

 I don't remove hydrangea flowers until spring arrives....

Top and right: Hydrangea 'Pinky Winky'  Left: Climbing hydrangea

 I leave interesting seeds on some shrubs such as calycanthus:

The seedpods of Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)

Grasses covered in snow are always interesting. When frozen, my large miscanthus spread out like a giant spider.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'

The miniature trees around the pond: weeping cherry tree, cutleaf Japanese maple, weeping spruce, and weeping redbud, are beautiful in the snow.

One of the miniature trees near the pond: Weeping cherry (Prunus x 'Snofozam')

Evergreen shrubs and trees are a must for providing interest in the winter months. Many years ago, Duane planted about a hundred white pine trees through the woodland walk.

White pine trees covered in snow canopy the Woodland Walk
He planted a small white pine more recently. It is thriving.
Evergreen shrubs, English boxwood, flank the 'naked lady' (the grandchildren's name for the statue.)
We put most of the statuary indoors for the winter, but this angel has not been moved from the pine tree for about 12 years.

Of the two red twig dogwoods that I planted this year, the one in the horseshoe garden has the best color. I don't know why the stems of the other one are so black.

Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') in the Horseshoe Garden

Not all of my shrubs look attractive this season -- some I wrapped with burlap fabric to protect them from the frequent cold winds that we are experiencing.

Shrubs wrapped with burlap

I have shown you just a few of the plants in my gardens that look interesting this season. I hope I've given you some ideas for making yours a four-season garden.

While I don't have blooms this month, I am enjoying the birds that visit the feeder and the heated water dish. Providing food, water, and shelter is even more important knowing that bird populations are decreasing.

Northern Mockingbird
Top: Blue jay. Bottom right: Tufted titmouse. Left: Downy Woodpecker

Duane provides many places for the birds to find shelter. He maintains a dozen or more bird houses.  Here are four of them:

Charm, the miniature horse and Billy, the old goat, snooze in the sun. Doodles the younger goat keeps alert in case food appears.

Although I am not showing any blooms today, I am linking with the lovely Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Carol has beautiful flowers indoors and good advice for caring for poinsettias. I have a few indoor blooms. Next time ...

Pamela x

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Friday, November 29, 2019

A Gardener's Gratitude List

The Bluebird of Happiness Visiting my Garden

My article, 'A Gardener's Gratitude List,' was published in the Pocono Record newspaper and in the Penn State Extension newsletter for the Thanksgiving celebration that we enjoyed this week. I can't say often enough how thankful I am for my garden. Here are just six reasons why:

1. The Beauty of the Seasons
I am thankful for year-round color, beginning with spring flowers then summer-blooming perennials. Of course, there is nothing more beautiful than autumn in the Poconos.

Early June in my Cottage Garden

2. Thank a Plant
Plants are important to almost every aspect of our life including breathing and eating. My kitchen garden gives so much; I know my produce is free from chemicals. Fresh vegetable are 50% higher in nutrients than those that travel many miles to the supermarket. 

Bounty from my Kitchen Garden

3. Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds
Besides being grateful for their beauty, I am thankful for the work of pollinators. Furthermore, I am thankful for beneficial insects that protect our vegetables from insect bullies.

Ruby-throated hummingbird on fuschia
Monarch butterfly on milkweed

4. Connecting with Friends and Neighbors
Like most of you, dear gardening friends, I need others who are willing to listen to my tales of garden successes and failures. I am blessed with friends who are prepared to dig beside me when I need help.

Gardeners from the local Women's Club gave my gardens a final grooming before an important event this summer

 5. Health and Exercise
Gardening burns calories, reduces stress, and improves your overall physical and mental well-being. Gardening allows the brain to relax and releases the the tension caused by our addiction to technology.

Gardening is good for your health.

6. Gardens Everywhere
I am thankful for public garden spaces that I visit for new ideas. The Philadelphia area, withing reach of the Poconos, has some of the best botanical gardens in the country.

Chanticleer -- my favorite public garden

These are just six reasons for being thankful. I can think of more, such as how gardening evokes memories, slows me down, and puts worries in perspective. You can read the full article HERE.

What are you thankful for today?
Pamela x

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Monday, November 18, 2019

November Happenings in the Cottage Garden

The Serenity Garden after a killing frost early in November.

I didn't write a 'this month in the garden' blog at the end of October because my computer was in the repair shop, so I decided to post my November one early. In the pictures, taken from the beginning of the month until today, you can see that many greens rapidly became browns. You will also note that I haven't yet finished 'putting the garden to bed' so to speak. I'm trying to accomplish a little each day, but it's difficult because I can't tolerate the extreme cold. The temperature is low enough that our nearby ski slopes have opened much earlier than any other year since their beginning. Nevertheless, I'm battling-on with the fall tasks even though the temperature is more like January. I finished the digging up, but I'm still cleaning up and covering up

Digging up: I dug up the tender bulbs -- cannas and caladium, storing them in the basement with some calla lily bulbs my friend gave me.

Cleaning up: I've cleaned up most of the beds by removing flowers and vegetables with brown and shriveled foliage. I cut down beebalm and phlox with powdery mildew; I burned the diseased plants. Unfortunately, I didn't pull out all the annuals until the ground started to freeze, therefore it was really difficult to get out their roots. I have left some perennials, like purple cone flower, standing.  They will supply seeds for the birds and shelter for insects. I will not cut grasses down until the spring as they provide wonderful winter interest.

Clockwise from top: Hydrangea 'Pinkie Winkie', Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', Japanase Forest Grass or Hakone Grass Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold.
Duane and I emptied all the pots and hanging baskets. The Boston ferns were the last to go.

 Today, I'm happy to see some green plants remaining in my gardens:

Clockwise from the top: Wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) in the rain garden, rosemary in the herb garden, and Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) in the Cottage Garden

You can see that on each side of the kitchen garden arbor, the clay pots were still waiting to be emptied in early November. You will also note that the corn was still standing in our fields at that time. The farmer didn't harvest until November 9, so I'm not the only person late with my chores.

Early November: corn still standing, pots need emptying, and fading annuals peeping through the fence waiting to be removed.

The farmer harvested late this year
Today, I haven't raked the beds but at least I've removed all the dead stuff. Behind the Kitchen Garden - the fields sans corn.

My husband does the enormous cleanup job of closing the pond. He skims for leaves, removes the aquatic plants and places them in crates on the bottom (I cut them back first.) He switches off the waterfalls and adds a bubbler and a heater. He plans on putting a net under the weeping maple to catch any remaining leaves before they fall in the water.

Top: Dwarf cutleaf maple (Acer palmatum) early in November.  Bottom: today it is shedding its leaves

Cover up: The ground isn't completely frozen so I hope I'm not too late to protect the new shrubs with burlap. That is the next job, hopefully the last one, before the garden sleeps and I relax. I don't want to cover the new red twig dogwoods, so I hope they survive. I bought two to give my garden some color in winter.

Arctic fire™ red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera 'Farrow') living up to its name.

I'm missing the catalpa branch that was positioned outside the garden room window before the tree was removed last month. The birds would rest there while awaiting their turn on the feeder. There are plenty of birds visiting us still, but a photo of a bird on the ground isn't half as interesting as one captured on a branch, in my opinion.

Top: Eastern towhee.   Bottom: American robin
This picture taken last winter is so much more interesting. But the tree is gone, boo.hoo!

My pets may be feeling the cold in spite of their thick, winter coats. Each morning if the sun is shining they find a sunny spot in which to stand while waiting for breakfast.

My pets: Charm the miniature horse, Doodles the Nigerian dwarf goat, and Billy Goat who is an old fellow now.

I'm enjoying blogs of gardeners in Australia and those places where summer is now beginning. It gives me a feeling of warmth on these frigid days. I hope my friends in the Northern hemisphere have successfully put their gardens to bed, preferably in a less tardy fashion than me. I am looking forward to visiting Sarah at Down by the Sea. She will soon be opening her garden gate for a November view in Dorset, England.

Your gardening friend,
Pamela x

Interesting fungi on white pine stump

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