Still blooming in my garden

Fall ushers in the beautiful colors of leaves, but it chases away the blooming flowers that cheerfully splashed color across my gardens and lawn throughout the summer. My potted annuals continue to provide vibrant color.

A few weeks ago I replaced the waning summer annuals in my flower boxes with mums, the garden workhorse of fall.

These mums (They could be asters; I’m not sure of the difference) are planted in my St. Francis garden. They’re the brightest spot of color there now.

The butterfly bush

and the roses are making a valiant last gasp. But their days are clearly numbered.

We have a plentiful supply of sedum that makes a statement in the fall garden,

and quite a few Liriope muscari, or Lily Turf, both variegated and non. They add a nice subtle color for the observant.

And all of sudden these charming white wildflowers are blooming along the woods’ edge.

The vanilla marigolds we planted in the empty space ravaged by our chameleon ivy eradication, have filled in nicely this year. I like them so well I may just plant them next year and skip the perennials in this particular spot altogether.

The Mandevilla that I planted in the garden continues to bloom like the one on the deck in the first picture. The Moonflower vine growing up the left side that I planted from seed did not produce any flowers until

September 29th when I noticed this bright spot from my kitchen window.

A single solitary flower. Isn’t it gorgeous? I like it so much, I’m thinking about trying to plant moonflowers in a big pot on our deck, which is full sun, and allow them to climb along our railing next year. It’s worth a try, anyway.

What’s still blooming where you are?

Up the path to the woods — creating a woodland garden

In April of 2011, I posted about the Angel and Woodland Gardens and our plans for the woodland garden. Since then we’ve been side-tracked by our Project Chameleon Ivy Eradication. Finally, this week Mark was able to begin working on creating steps up to the Woodland Garden. Gardening is  a reminder that we sometimes have to toil through unpleasant tasks to get to the fun, creative ones. But if we persevere, we will get there. Don’t get me wrong, we still have some ivy work to do, but we’ve made a huge dent in it.

This is my view when I’m standing on the side deck by our garage door. Along the right edge of the photo you see the sedum pinking up in the top edge of our St. Francis Garden that follows the slope down the hill beside our house. At the top of this photo, the curve of the Angel Garden runs horizontally along the base of a small hill in our side yard. The Woodland Garden is simply the top of the hill that we allow to grow more or less untended.  If you look between the two lawn chairs, you might be able to see a big oak leaf hydrangea. The path I describe below is to the right of that hydrangea.

I circled the round black nozzle of our sprinkler system so that you can orient the following photos. Mark has collected the pile of wood chippings you see from chipping and shredding the refuse of our yard clean-ups, tree-trimmings, and honeysuckle removals. We’re going to use it to mulch the path in the woods, although we’ll probably need a lot more. I doubt that will be a problem when I look up and see the dead ash trees we need to have removed.

If I stand behind our refuse bin and look up into the woods, I see the photo below.

It’s an overgrown mess, with a bit of poison ivy here, lots of Chameleon ivy there, and who knows what kind of insect life flourishing beneath. It’s not someplace I’m willing to tromp through for a meditative afternoon stroll in the shade.

Here’s a shot after Mark spent several hours working on the path. The sprinkler nozzle is circled. Mark is re-using materials found in the yard to create this garden path. In addition to the mulch, Mark is digging up stones and adding them to the area at the end of the drive where stones had previously been laid.  The path up into the woods looks inviting, doesn’t it?

Here’s a closer view. The logs came from the redbud tree that fell down this spring. Right now we’re just setting them in. I don’t know if we will have to add spikes of some kind later to keep them in place.

You can’t really tell from this photo, but each log functions as the leading edge of a short step.

Soon we will see the whole path clearly. As you can see, the top of the hill is not densely wooded. Many of the trees up there have died over the years as evidenced by the remaining stumps. And since we removed the overgrown honeysuckle and entangled hawthorn tree, it’s more of a clearing with a tree here and there. But flowering vinca covers much of the ground, irises I planted bloomed in spring, berry bushes we planted are trying to get a foothold, wildflowers put on a show, and a little garden gnome perches on a stump.

At our last house, with Mark’s help, I created what I thought of as a cottage garden with a winding looped gravel path. I used to  love meandering along, tending my plants, or just enjoying them. I hope to create a circular winding path here. I’ll continue to plant woodland perennials, and hope to install a bench. Eventually, as all the existing trees fill in, and new ones that we plant flourish, this will become a magical little woodland garden where gnomes stand guard and fairies play.

You gotta have a dream.

Bring on the Annuals — a garden update

I love my perennials, but this time of year, I’m grateful for the color a few well-placed annuals provide in my largely dried and burned-out gardens.

Pink Moonbeam Coreopsis

Of course I still have a few perennials blooming. These little moonbeam coreopsis make a splash of color in my St. Francis Garden. And the knockout roses are doing okay, although I pruned a lot of spent blooms off yesterday.


The sedum is starting to pink-up, but I feel like it is a bit early for that. It seems like the perennials are all trying to rush through the summer.

I like to put a few annuals here and there in my gardens, like these white and vanilla petunias, although truthfully, they’re not doing all that well this year with the drought.

And I put this Mandevilla in the Angel Garden. I want to believe that the heart-shaped leaves climbing alongside are from the Moon Flower seeds I planted earlier this summer. Mark thinks they’re a weed. I guess we’ll see.

And rather than invest in perennials this year, we decided to plant a few vanilla marigolds in the now-ivy-free far side of the garden. The last few daisies are still blooming. I’ll probably cut most of them off to bring them inside for weekend guests. Check out the new grass in front of that section. If you forgot how it looked before, you can see it here. Mark did a terrific job,

even with deer tromping through the newly planted grass in soft soil.

This year our container plants are doing well, probably because we’re Mark’s making an extra effort to keep them watered. Usually I’m not that good with containers. These impatiens hang just above the wooded area in the bottom section of our St. Francis Garden.

This cheerful verbena container greets people near the side door.

We have six deck boxes. This year we tried out sweet potato vine for the first time. It is a vigorous and beautiful plant. It’s doing better than the geraniums we put in the middle. I don’t recall the name of the vine on the right, but I just loved it when I saw it in the garden store. It has a little wild look to it with small white flowers.

We added a few more pots to our deck this year to create more of a garden-feel. The two plants on the far end are Luna Hibiscus. They have a huge pink blossom, but aren’t blooming at the moment.

They do have quite a few buds, though, if you look closely. I’ll try to remember to get a photo when they bloom again.

The Mandevilla, like the one in the Angel Garden, likes it’s container, trellis, and location on our sunny deck.

The sweet potato vine is taking over this container, and crowding out the geranium and verbena. I don’t mind too much. I like the how lush it looks.

A spider has created a work of art here between the box and the Mandevilla. I’m making a conscious effort to get over my spider phobia. Not sure how successful I’ll be.

What outdoor container garden would be complete without a few herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley and basil? I think these are looking a little anemic myself. Everything probably needs a dose of Miracle-Gro.

I like the color of the annuals, and appreciate the way they do the bulk of the work in late summer. But I also love the wildflowers that pop up willy-nilly in the wooded sections of our gardens. They don’t care if I water them or not.

This little chipmunk seems to admire my wildflowers too. He’s got a front-row seat.

And look who I caught snacking on the wildflowers. Can’t say as I blame her. They look tender and sweet. I read that deer don’t have the ability to chew tough foods, so they will eat the new, tender shoots of almost any plant.

Do you have any luck with container gardens? Any tips or secrets you’d like to share?

What’s not working in my garden- or thank goodness for cameras

Cameras can create reality, especially with a little help from a blog. Ain’t it grand?

On my recent Now Blooming  post, a good blogging friend, Julia Munroe Martin made the comment, “I love reading your blog about it [gardening] because you make it look easy!” I not only make it look easy, I also choose to show you the shots that make it look good. Julia’s comment gave me the idea of showing you what doesn’t look so easy, or good. So this post is dedicated to all my blogging friends and readers out there who have to live with reality, and not carefully framed and subsequently cropped camera shots, when they look out a window.

The yellow foliage you see are my anemic bleeding hearts that really need to be cut to the ground. Put that on my to-do list.

These irises are neatly trimmed.

But these renegade ones with the spiking leaves are looking a little bizarre right now.

This is a good one. These are my newly, and not neatly or requested, pruned hostas that I planted this year. Somebody’s been having a party.

This is supposed to be moonbeam morning glories, and I believe the leaves with holes in them are the morning glories. The other heart-shaped leaves belong to some kind of uninvited vine. I’m still holding out hope for the morning glories. The red flower belongs to the Mandeville which is doing fine and is  also climbing the trellis.

Here’s a classic mistake. My bad. When we planted the daisies a year or two ago, seen at the left edge of this photo, I thought it might be cool to have short daisies in front of tall daisies.  I actually think the height difference does not look cool, and unfortunately, the vanilla-colored daylilies, my favorites, are blooming at the same time, right behind the gargantuan daisies. Gardening 101 – never plant tall plants in front of short ones. Note to self: transplant tall daisies after they’re done blooming.

Here’s a closer view where you can see how the daisies are stealing the show from the daylilies. Not good. Even if I do like daisies.

And here’s your run of the mill weed the size of a corn stalk. It’s not the only weed in these gardens as you might have guessed, but I thought it was particularly noteworthy.

Are you all sick of the tales of the Chameleon ivy yet? I know I am. Here is the left end of our Angel Garden. Pretty, isn’t it?

You might not have noticed these dead plants we transplanted after removing the ivy when the drought struck right at the same time that Mark put the sprinkler system out of commission by breaking it in not one but three places while digging out ivy. Casualties of the ongoing war against the Chameleon.

In some ways, you’ve got to admire this persistent plant. I wish you could see it here, but the lighting wasn’t right. In this hole that Mark dug under this landscaping boulder, many ivy plants, full of mature leaves were happily thriving in this dark cave. It’s truly remarkable. If Mark hadn’t pulled them out today and filled the hole back in, I would go out there right now and take a photo with a flash, just so you could see. Alas, you’ll have to take my word for it.

Here’s a section of the garden where the ivy has come back. The first time we “got rid” of it here, we evidently didn’t dig deep enough. It’s back with a vengeance. My latest strategy is to simply pull the plants up, depriving the monster motor, and brains, of the invasive and diabolical organism that lies below the dirt of its energy from the sun as synthesized through these seemingly innocent leaves that are at times even attractive, although they emit an unpleasant, in fact downright disgusting, pungent odor. I’m yanking them until we can get around to finishing them off.

If I wasn’t being painfully honest, I could show you this photo and pass it off as a picture of our daylilies, where you would in all likelihood focus your attention. Or you might notice the angel or the rock with the play of light. You might not even see the ivy, if I didn’t point it out.

Or I could show you a photo from this angle, and you might notice the angel, or the white daisies, and probably wouldn’t even pick up on the fact that they are dwarfing the daylilies.

I love these daylilies.

Here’s a good one. Anybody recognize this? And no, it is not somewhere deep in a woods far away from the house,

but a mere two feet from the St. Francis garden right beside where all my wildflowers, grown from handfuls of cast seeds, have graciously decided to put on a show.

I’ve got spent Spirea to shear,

boxwoods to trim,

and mangled leaves of a big-leaf hosta to remove (probably due to my pressure washer exuberance over the weekend).

Doesn’t the sidewalk look nice? I spent a whole afternoon cleaning moss off of it with the pressure washer. I didn’t even know the sidewalk was that dirty until I started cleaning it. If you’re OCD and you don’t have a pressure washer, you should go get yourself one. Very satisfying.

I’m going to leave you with this hidden picture challenge. Can you find the barberry bush? Neither can I. It looks ridiculous and it’s got to go. Put that on my to-do list too.

The truth is out there.

Have faith. There’s always cameras.

Now blooming

One of the things I love about perennials, and there are many, is that it’s a constantly changing picture. Annuals are nice because you have a guaranteed wave of color throughout the season, but they are predictable. Perennials surprise you with their comings and goings. I love that about them.

These white spikes are at the bottom of our yard near the stone patio. I don’t yet know what they are, even though I did a brief search online this morning. Anybody recognize them?

Out back we have six flower boxes on our deck railing. Last year I planted petunias, this year I went for geraniums. These are actually an apricot color, although they look a little red to me in this photo on my computer screen; I just got a new computer and I’m not sure if the color settings are right. (I’m also not sure how to fix it if they’re not. Just another thing to learn. . .) I really liked the vining cream/yellowish flowers that I disregarded the name of.  When we first planted them, they were very scraggly and I thought I had made a mistake. Now that they are filling out, I really love them. Feel free to enlighten me if you know the name.

I planted three little pincushion flowers this year. They require a lot of dead-heading and I haven’t been the best at that this year. The ivy takes so much of our time. A butterfly bush I planted last year, or the year before, arches above with it’s deep lavender blooms. And up in the top left corner of this photo, the  moonbeam coreopsis are thinking about blooming. I’ve seen a lot of these blooming in other yards around here, and I’m not sure why ours are slow. We’ve had a bit of trouble with them from the start. They are easily trampled where they are, especially in the early spring when we forget they’re there.

The daisies are in full bloom and will stay that way for a little while. These are the same daisies we planted at Annie’s gravesite a couple of years ago. I hope to take my mother up to Piqua to see them while they’re still in bloom.

Last month I pruned back the knock-out roses and trimmed away the brown-spotted foilage. They are blooming nicely now. I don’t have confidence it will last. Even supposedly “carefree” roses, apparently aren’t carefree. If you look closely you will see holes in many of the leaves where insects are snacking. I used to spray my roses, but don’t like to do that and don’t intend to do it anymore.

The daylilies are all blooming now, although the gold and yellow ones I showed you last month have faded out and are forming seeds. I always thought the stella doras were supposed to bloom all season. I can’t remember if they came back last year and bloomed again or not. There are too many to even think about dead-heading.

These are more like the old-fashioned orange ones that only bloom once, but make a spectacular show when they do.

As are these. They’re looking a little ragged around the edges. It’s been a rough year for them.

I showed you the early bloom of the oakleaf hydrangeas last time. They are in full bloom now. I never fully appreciated them until we moved here and have a nice display of seven or eight bushes along the edge of the woodland garden.

These are more of a vanilla compact daylily that I think may be of the stella dora variety, but I need to research that to be sure. They, too, are looking a little dog-eared and I hope they will bounce back when they’re in full bloom. We have two large sections of these in the angel garden. But we uprooted all the plants in one section last year to eradicate the ivy that was running underneath and intertwined between all the roots. So maybe they need some time to readjust and recover from the surgery.

This is a second, lighter in color, butterfly bush we planted at the top of the angel garden, or on the edge of the woodland, however you prefer to look at it. It is a little bit scrawny and I hope will fill out with time. I maybe need to get out there, heat or not, and fertilize some of these plants. I hate the heat. I could set an alarm and get up at 6:00 am. We’ll see.

How is your garden growing?

These are the good ole days

We had glorious weather here this weekend, and Mark and I used it to our advantage to make a concentrated strike against the Chameleon ivy still in sections of our garden.

This is a photo you may have seen that I took in April when Mark was preparing the soil to plant new grass along the edge where we had to kill about a foot wide border of grass that had been infiltrated by the ivy.

In April we spent a week or two clearing the right end of this garden of ivy. This panoramic view shows about 2/3 the length of the garden. The grass seed has been planted, and a large section of the garden has been mulched. The left end of the garden that is not pictured here still has a lot of ivy.

If you look closely under the hydrangeas on the right, you can see how the ivy has moved up the hill and into the wooded area. I’m not sure when we will get to this section, but every passing day the ivy creeps further into the woods, and back down the hill into the garden. A person could get paranoid.

You can see here where we stopped. This was taken in April, so the ivy doesn’t look all that pronounced, but all the brownish red you see in the grass and among the perennials is the ivy.

By the end of May this garden looked like a weed jungle. Mark is removing ivy from the top section. He had already spent a couple of days working at the very left edge of this garden. You can just make out a patch of brown dirt along the far bottom curve where he’s been.

I spot some salvia that we planted last year struggling to get it’s blooms above the wave of ivy.

Oh look. There’s a daylily in there.

We worked Friday and Saturday and got this far. It is time-consuming work. You can’t just yank the weed out of the earth. It is attached to long runners that are all entangled with each other under the soil and deep down into the clay. We have to double-dig. Mark fills my cart with shovel-fulls of the ivy-filled soil and/or clay and I hand sift through it clump by clump, pulling out every blooming last little piece of runner. Even the tiniest piece will grow if left in the soil.

We spent the entire day outside on Sunday and got pretty far.

What’s left is basically this section of perennials, which sadly, we already did once. It was one of the first sections we worked on last year before we understood the full extent of the problem. We will have to go back in and double dig to try to get all the runners.

You can see all of Mark’s new grass here along the finished edge of the garden, and why we have to stop the spread of this ivy. Truthfully, it is infiltrating the grass and will take over the entire yard in a few years if the super heroes don’t stand together to battle it back.

Here’s the good part of the story. There was a nice breeze blowing and birds were singing. I had set up my i-Pod speakers in the garage and was blaring music out of there so that it would be audible where we worked at the far end of the garden. Sometimes Mark and I  talked and sometimes we worked silently together. It reminded me of early in our marriage when we worked together to refinish a hardwood floor in the dining room of our first house. I remember reading at the time that it was good marriage therapy for a couple to work on something together.

I was sitting there sorting the dirt, saving the worms, watching out for spiders, when “Anticipation” by Carly Simon starting playing over the i-Pod speakers and into our yard. Yes. I thought. These are the good ole days.

Now blooming in my garden

It’s way too hot today to be outside working in my gardens. We’ve got temperatures in the 90s here this weekend, and I’m staying indoors. Believe me, there’s plenty of work to be done out there, but not in this heat.

Our irises have finished their blooming and are beginning to look a little scraggly. I trimmed the browning flower stalks from the St. Francis garden; the woodland garden will have to be a bit more wild. I realize my limits. I’m thinking I will trim the iris leaves down to about 5 or 6 inches again this year. It cleans up the garden a bit and allows the other blooming flowers to show.

Right now the daylillies are the main event. We have a couple of varieties in our gardens that the previous owners planted. These are gold. You might also notice the perennial salvia at the bottom of the photo.

This photo of the salvia is a couple of weeks old. Most of the blooms have faded now and these will have to be cut back. They may bloom again later if I do that.

This is a yellow variety of the daylilly. We have a few in our St. Francis garden and more in the front landscaping. I know they have a name. I just don’t know what it is. We have a third variety in the Angel Garden. It is my favorite, but it blooms a little later.

This hosta in the St. Francis garden is beginning to bloom. You can see the blue wildflowers in the woods in the background. You can also see the white astilbe that we planted last year. In front of the hosta you can see the top of daffodil greenery that I tied back. I think it’s time to chop that off. I love daffodils, but I hate it when their leaves fall over in the garden.

I’ve grown to love the feathery color the astilbe add to a shaded garden spot. At our last house we had dark red and pink ones as well. Before all’s said and done, we’ll probably have the same here.

We started with one knock-out rose bush our first year here and then added two more last year. One of them is not fairing very well. The sun exposure from one place in this garden to another can vary widely because of the trees on the wooded side and the house on the other. I’ve been a little disappointed with the knock-out roses that I thought were supposed to be relatively carefree. They’re not. I spent a lot of time trimming off what looked like diseased leaves, or perhaps mildew. I refuse to use chemicals to spray the rose bushes anymore. Maybe I can find something natural. Any suggestions?

Our oak leaf hydrangeas are beginning to bloom where the deer haven’t eaten them. You might notice some tiny white blossoms under the hydrangea on the left. These are the blooms from the Chameleon Ivy that has spread under the bushes. Eradicating the ivy is a job that will never end.

This is a view of gold daylillies in front of hosta outside our front door. Again we are the fortunate inheritors of these beautiful plants. The sun was setting behind the flowers, and I liked the way the light played on them and on the broad hosta leaves.

Anything good blooming where you are?

Ornament, gardener, or nuisance?

As I was standing in front of the dryer folding clothes Wednesday just before dusk, I looked outside and saw this new garden ornament in our woodland garden.

Then she started to move and I realized she wasn’t an ornament at all, but a gardener. She was pruning the flower buds right off of our Oakleaf Hydrangea.

When she moved over to our new little flowering crabapple tree, that failed to bloom this year because someone had eaten off the branches at the bottom, I started wondering if she is after all, what my husband might call her — a nuisance.

I just wish I could train her to nibble on those dead, brown hydrangea blossoms from an early spring freeze.

I let Arthur out to chase her off, but she’s wised up to him. He doesn’t scare her anymore. I stepped out on the deck to call Arthur back, but she’s also wised up to me.

So I abandoned my woodland garden to the woodland creature and returned to my laundry.

Wild for wildflowers

Wildflowers are enchanting. I love driving along the road and being surprised by a field of flowers. In Germany as we zoomed along   in a bus from Berlin to Munich, the road passed through field after field of red poppies. Closer to home in rural areas I sometimes see a colorful sea of lavender or yellow. I love the Queen Anne’s Lace that I’ve see when I walk at VOA. Wildflowers are God’s or Mother Nature’s or the Universe’s way of decorating this planet. And they’re a thrill to behold knowing, in most cases, they were not planted by a human hand.

These, however, are not wildflowers. These were planted by previous owners near the stone patio at the foot of our back hill. I found out last year they are called Solomon’s Seal. As you can see by the weeds, this is not a high priority gardening area for us.

But the airy white flowers behind the Solomon’s Seal are wildflowers.

They line the edge of the woods and curve around the stone patio.

These yellow wildflowers are sprouting up everywhere in my woodland garden and make little bright spots in the distance.

I planted some irises I had to divide last year up in the woodland garden. I was worried about not enough sun exposure, but they are doing fine.

The yellow flower is a Golden Ragwort (also found out last year). Doesn’t it look like a charming miniature yellow daisy?

My woodland gnome plays among the wildflowers.

The woods at the bottom of the St. Francis garden are abloom with yellow, white, and orange. Since I haven’t seen this orange anywhere else, I think it may be one of the few seeds that sprouted from a bag of wildflower seeds I threw out there last year. I have another bag I’m going to try again this year. It’s pretty heavy shade there, so I don’t have a lot of hope.

I don’t know what the orange flowers are called. Perhaps another kind reader will inform me. Do you know?

All this thought about wildflowers makes me think about the flowers we cultivate and buy in garden stores. I think it may be true to say they were all, or at least came from, a wildflower at some point. Just another fascinating observation about Creation.

I feel a change coming

In some ways I might be a little ADHD. When I was younger, stronger, and had a house with more possibilities for it, I used to rearrange my furniture on a more frequent basis than my husband, at least, was comfortable with. That’s putting it gently. He’d come home after a hard day at work and find the piano stuck in the foyer, or the bookcase halfway across the room. Can’t fault him, I guess, for being a little tiffy about it at times.

I’m too old for that hoopla anymore. I just have to live with the same ol’ same ol’ because I’m simply too old and have a few physical limitations that discourage me from being impulsive in that way.

I have to find a new route for my impulsivity. (I might have just made up a new word, or misspelled an old one.)

I feel a change coming.

For quite a while now I’m been looking at how I’m spending the hours in my days. The older I get, the more valuable those are to me.

I’m thinking about backing off of blogging to two or three times a week from the five posts I do now. I know some of you who are getting barraged with daily messages from me in your inboxes may be heaving a sigh of relief. The biggest concern I have is that I used my daily blogging commitment to get myself seated at my computer and put words on paper every single day—something all the pros say is a must. But what I’m doing with my blog isn’t what I would call quality writing, usually. Not that I mind that much. I took a series of photography courses in college, really enjoy doing it, and wish I had more time for it. But the blogs with many photos actually take much longer to do, as I’m sure other photography bloggers can verify, than simple writing does. For me, at least.

The long and short is, I want to try to translate some of this disciplined at-the-computer time into working on my writing.

One sticking point is that I’m trying to build content on my blog, so I don’t know if I will be able to resist blogging every day. That’s an odd twist. I may try making better use of my Facebook author page (Christine M Grote) and Twitter.

I’m not going to make any more predictions or promises about blog frequency. I’m not a big rule-follower, which has been to my detriment at times. But it comes to me naturally and what can we do about genetics?

It’s a beautiful, blue-sky day here this morning. The windows are open and I can hear the birds singing, and babies in the birdhouse out front chirping. A soft breeze ruffles the leaves on the very end of the arched limbs that hang withing view from my desk. A robbin is skipping around the landscaping looking for a worm, no doubt.

My garden waits.