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Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Methods of Weed Control

The redbud in this picture is a weed.
This has been a marvelous growing season for weeds, has it not?

I feel like I can't turn my back on a flower border or vegetable garden bed for more than two seconds before a new weed seed germinates. There are weeds everywhere.

I clear out weeds in the morning and by nightfall they are back, and it seems as though they've brought their friends with them.

I look for weeds, find none, but the very next day, there is a weed in the spot where I looked before that is now three feet tall.  How did I not see it? The weeds hide like zucchini squash and only show themselves when they are huge.

From thistles to dandelions to redbud seedlings, I have enough weeds in my garden right now to qualify for some kind of world-record, I'm sure.

What's a gardener to do?

I long ago abandonded herbicides as too expensive and not worth the chemical exposure in my little garden. I have explored so-called organic herbicides, including vinegar, and determined they are more hype than help. There is a reason they aren't labeled as herbicides and not sold as herbicides and that's because they really don't work that well as herbicides.  And they can be just as harmful to the garden and the garden soil as chemical herbicides.

I think about using boiling water, but on the scale I would need to use it, it seems a bit impractical. To get to all the weeds, I'd be running back and forth with multiple tea kettles of boiling water all day.

Yes, many a hot afternoon, I've sat inside, where it is cool, and plotted and schemed and though about how to vanquish weeds from my garden. Meanwhile, outside, they continue to grow. And grow. And flower. And seed. And spread roots.

I could pull just a few weeds and leave them lying around the garden so the other weeds see them, get scared, and run for their lives. If only weeds could see and run away.

I could toy with the weeds, and often do, by letting them grow just to the point of flowering, then cutting them down or pulling them out, depending on their size.  I know this looks like procrastination on my part, but I really am just toying with the weeds, giving them hope, then dashing that hope. I want them to get demoralized and give up. If only they would.

I could pamper the weeds and make them feel like they are the most prized plants in the garden. Then they would surely reward me by dying off. After all, it seems to me when we fuss over a plant too much, it usually dies from too much care.  But I'm afraid that might backfire on me, because weeds don't behave like ordinary garden plants. No. They are stronger, faster growing, and determined to take over.

What will I really do about my weeds?  I'll just keep pulling them and whacking them back and get busy applying a good layer of mulch to the garden borders. If I do that, I'm bound to have some success with weed control, at least enough success so that my garden no longer qualifies for a world-record.

In the meantime, I wonder if signs at the gates announcing "no weeds allowed" would keep some of the weeds from coming into my garden?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Little Joe Pye Weed

Little Joe Pye Weed is beginning to bloom in the August Dreams Garden border, just in time for Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Little Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium dubium 'Little Joe', only grows to about four feet, making it a great "back of the border" plant for late summer interest.

Pollinators love it to pieces.  When these flowers actually begin to open, they will fly in from all over.

Like many of our lovely late bloomers, Joe Pye Weed is a member of the Asteraceae family of plants, along with Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) and of course, Asters (Symphyotrichum sp.)

I like to think if you blind-folded me and dropped me into a garden, I could tell you what month of the year it was, almost to the week, by what is blooming.  I'd like to think that, but it would need to be the right garden, with the right plants, like Joe Pye Weed which is always showing buds by late July.

Joe Pye Weed tolerates a range of soil conditions and even wet feet if you have a rain garden. I cannot personally attest to it being deer resistant, but it does show up on lists of deer resistant plants.

I'm happy to have a named variety of Joe Pye Weed in my garden. Regular ol' Joe Pye would grow to five to seven feet. That is tall in any garden.

My 'Little Joe' won't come true from seed so I don't bother leaving the seed heads in the fall. I cut them off and leave the plants standing until early spring.  I also don't panic in the spring if I don't see new shoots coming up right away. 'Little Joe' likes to take its time in the spring.

My little stand of 'Little Joe' has expanded only a foot or so out from the original planting, taking about four years to do so. I don't think it would engulf a garden border by any means.

I like to stand next to it in the evening and look at the pollinators.

They aren't here yet, because the flowers haven't fully opened, but they'll be here soon. When they do arrive, grab a chair and a tall glass of iced tea and sit next to 'Little Joe' and watch the show. It is much better than anything on television in the summertime!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dear Southern Camellia Sisters

Dear Southern Camellia Sisters,

Hello from the Midwest. We cannot believe it has been six months since we last wrote to give you an update on our adventures here in the Midwest.

First, we need to report some sad news. It appears that our dear sister camellia 'Kuro Delight' did not make it through the winter.  'Snow Flurry' and I ('April Delight') watched and waited for her to leaf out but sadly, she did not.

We wondered for the longest time if Carol noticed that 'Kuro Delight' didn't leaf out like she should have.  Then the other day we stopped wondering.  Carol pulled 'Kuro Delight' out and presumably took her to the compost pile where she may serve in other ways, if you know what we mean.

In the meantime, I will admit 'Snow Flurry' looks a lot better than I ('April Delight') do.  Or is it the other way around? We do get confused because we both have white flowers and 'Kuro Delight' was supposed to have pink flowers. Sadly she never bloomed.

However, in her place here in the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights at May Dreams Gardens, Carol planted three crape myrtles, Lagerstroemia indica, the other day.  We looked at the tags and almost busted a bud laughing. They sell them as perennials up here in the north.  Isn't that a leaf-slapper? Down home in the south those crape myrtles are small tree.

Oh boy, they sure don't expect much from crape myrtles up here.

Anyway, she planted three crape myrtles in between us two camellias.  One is called 'Enduring Summer'. Good name. We hope it also knows the importance of enduring winter around here. The other two didn't have names so we are calling them 'crape follies'.

And in front of them, do you know what she planted?  Crinums!  We think they are going to "go south" at the first sign of winter, but maybe not, and hopefully not.  Cindy from My Corner of Katy sent them from her garden all the way from Texas earlier this spring Texas!

Did we mention we are all in the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights?  We hope we are more delight than folly, but only time, and another winter or two, will tell which one.

Well, that's about all we've got from now.  Please send messages to Carol to make sure she mulches us real good before winter sets in. Then just hope these new crape myrtles and crinums grow good strong roots before the snow flies. That may be there only hope of survival.

With a shared love of gardening,
'April Remembered' and 'Snow Flurry', the two camellias of May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Garden Caretakers and Garden Heros

Always good to see bees in the garden
I start off every gardening season intent on being a good caretaker for my garden.

I plan to deadhead spent blooms long before they cast their seeds about the garden.  I envision effortless hours spent spreading the finest mulch in each flower border and along the paths of the vegetable garden so everything looks orderly and well kept, as though a wonderful, attentive caregiver tends the garden.

In my mind as the caretaker, when I pull out weeds, they are small and dainty and willingly let loose from the soil with my slightest tug.  If there are even any weeds at all after the fine job I will have done with mulching.

When I am the caretaker all the plants in the garden will naturally have water when they need it, which will fall gently from the heavens onto the garden, precisely when the garden needs it.  Of course, I stand at the ready to also provide water with a garden hose that never kinks.

No plants wither and die without a good reason on my caretaking watch. Diseases and insects stop just on the other side of the fence and admire the garden from afar, side by side with the rabbits, raccoons, and meadow voles.

Who wouldn't want to be the garden caretaker I imagine myself to be?

Then on "day two" of the gardening season, I look about and realize there are some problems in the garden.

It is then that I cast off the "I love to garden" apron that I wear as a caretaker and switch to the cape and leotard of a garden hero.

I am in full rescue mode. I begin flinging mulch from one bed to another and hope, by some miracle it will actually cause now-full-grown weeds to wither and die while the plants I planted flourish.  Since this is never the case, I drag out a variety of weeding tools and begin the battle.

I cut back, pull out, hoe down and otherwise exert all my energies on weeding.

Then I notice it hasn't rained for some time and plants are beginning to wilt, especially those still in the containers they came home from the garden center in, weeks after I purchased them.  I grab the hose, which immediately senses my touch and kinks in three places and stubbornly refuses to deliver more than a trickle of water until I say the magic words and make offerings to the goddesses of the garden hoses in exchange for more water.

I've never quite figured out the magic words to unkink the hoses, though I know those magic words don't start with D or S and definitely not F,  and my offerings are apparently insufficient, so there I stand for what seems like hours, but it is probably just minutes, trickling water on each plant, hoping it is enough to revive them until I can slay the kinks of the garden hoses for good.

By the way, the F word is Frass, which, of course, is insect poop and the gardener's secret cuss word.

But there is no time to just be a hero with weeding and watering.  I must heroically deadhead, prune, tie up, and somehow get all the garden plants to behave because by day two in the garden they are spewing seeds, growing in the wrong direction or not growing at all, and in some cases, reaching out to attack one another.

Just what is this wisteria going to do with its captured zinnia?
I'm always a little surprised by the hooligan behavior of plants that while in the garden center looked so well-behaved.  Oh yes, many a plant has fooled me once I brought it home. Fooled or surprised, either way, I am the hero, rescuing one plant from another. I am also the disciplinarian, pulling plants apart, cutting off their seed heads and otherwise using a variety of pruners and occasionally even saws, to bring order out of the chaos my mis-behaving plants have created.

And while I am in full garden hero mode, with my cape flapping in the wind as I am attacking weeds, pleading with the goddesses of the water hoses and disciplining the misbehaving plants, those insects, plant diseases, rabbits, raccoons and meadow voles are coming in from all directions, ready to party in my garden and leave their messes for me to clean up.

Of course I'm not invited to their parties or know in advance when they are happeming. They are like those midnight raves that just pop up.  By morning, I can see the damage and add "clean up the mess made by fill-in-the-blank"  to my ever growing list of things to do as the garden hero who is going to save her garden and once again restore order and peace throughout the borders and beds.

For it is the hope of order and peace in the garden, the dream of returning to the quiet life of a garden caretaker, that keeps me going from one day to the next, from one season to the next, year in and year out.

I suppose I'll never be able to fully retire my garden hero cape, but it would be nice to occasionally be able to rightfully wear the "I love to garden" apron, to be caught up on weeding, watering, and plant disciplining, to be just be a caretaker for awhile.

A gardener can dream...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2016

Lilium lancifolium 'Flore Pleno'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for July 2016.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden, it is high summer and the gardens are putting out the blooms, mostly on schedule.

Yesterday evening, the skies darkened, the temperatures dropped and several thunderstorms rolled through bringing wind, rain, and bits of hail.

Thankfully, the garden withstood the attack and for the most part, all the plants were standing tall in the morning. Those that weren't will likely right themselves eventually. If not, I'll help them later.

Blooms? Or yes, summertime is full of blooms.

Out in Plopper's Field, where I plop in plants wherever there is an open spot, the lovely-to-some and hideous-to-others double-flowering lily, Lilium lancifolium 'Flore Pleno', has begun to open its blooms. Behind it is the common but too-pretty-not-to-have coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.

What else blooms in Plopper's Field?

There are Shasta daisies, Leucanthemum × superbum.

And the tiny white flowers of calamint, Calamintha nepeta var. nepeta.

And another lily, Lilium 'Black Beauty', an Orientpet lily.
I am quite fascinated with Orientpet lilies, hybrids created by crossing Oriental and Trumpet lilies. I've added a few to the garden each year for the past few years and intend to add more this fall.

As I've said for months, Plopper's Field needs a good bit of editing and weeding.  I'll weed as I can for during the summer and this fall, begin some editing.

Out in the vegetable garden the zinnias are beginning to bloom.
 Collectively, they lure in the bees and butterflies, which is what I hoped they would do.

What I didn't plan on was being so smitten with them, again, after all these years.

Individually, they can be quite stunning.
I'm already making plans to buy more zinnia seeds, more varieties, and fill the fringes of the vegetable garden with them.

Another garden border, August Dreams Garden, is starting to get interesting, right on schedule. It was designed for late blooming flowers.

There we see the first blooms on the cup flowers, Silphium perfoliatum.
I am vigilant about not letting these go to seed and spread throughout the garden because it is a large plant. One is plenty in my small garden.

Nearby is Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum.
I'm growing it because it is a native wildflower and fits in well with August Dreams Garden which is mostly prairie type plants. I might have to feature this one for Wildflower Wednesday, another great meme for sharing information on flowers.  It takes place on the 4th Wednesday of the month and is hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

I did let a daylily sneak in there amongst the mostly native prairie plants.  This one has flower stems over five feet tall and is called 'Notify Ground Crew'.
Who could resist such a tall daylily? Not me apparently.

All of August Dream Garden will be in bloom the next time we meet for bloom day.

Between then and now, I need to go out and pick green beans.

What's blooming in your garden as we reach the height of summer?

We would all love to have you join us for Garden Blogger's Bloom day and show us.

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden on or about the 15th of the month, then leave a link to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below and add a comment to tell us what you have for us to see.

And remember, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Waiting and watching for a perfect spot?

Are you waiting and watching for a perfect spot to plant in?

If you are, I regret to inform you, but feel it is my civic and gardenly duty to inform you, that the perfect spot is a myth, a holy grail that cannot be created, conjured, or composted into existence.

Yes, dear reader, you are quite right that we can come close to perfect soil by making sure to add plenty of compost, by correcting drainage problems, etc.

And for some plants, that may be just the thing to do.

However, for other plants, well, it doesn't take much to get some seeds to germinate and bloom, like this viola blooming in the tiny bit of soil between two pavers on the patio.

There's another purple viola blooming just a short distnce from this yellow one, also growing and blooming in the tiniest bit of soil.

And lest you just think it is just violas that bloom in the patio, I also found a petunia.

I have no idea who has been eating on the petunia, but I hope they stop doing so. It's hardly fair, after all, to pick on such a flower which hasn't picked the best growing place.

Why do I show you these pictures of flowers in the patio?  And by the way, I could also show you pictures of weeds growing in the patio, but that would make my garden look unkempt.  The little blooms in the patio just add to its charm.

I show you these patio blooms to remind you to stop fussing over soil. Just plant, sow seeds, give it a go and you may be surprised.

After all, sometimes that little sliver of dirt is all a seed needs.

There's a lesson in that, for life.  Don't wait for perfect conditions before you get started on whatever you've been holding back from doing, waiting for the perfect spot, the perfect opportunity.

Stop that waiting. Pick your spot, any spot, and germinate, grow, and flower.

You'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A garden is a story told by plants

Lilies in Plopper's Field
A garden is a story told by plants.

When the time is right, the plants tell the stories, stories of the past and the present, stories of conquests and defeats, stories of friends and enemies.

The only way to hear these stories is to go out to the garden, look around, and let the plants, in their own time, tell their tales.

I've heard many stories in my own garden, some worth telling to others and some that are best kept a secret between me and the plants.

There are stories of obsessions, mostly my obsessions with one type of plant or another, like the lilies in this picture, standing tall above Plopper's Field.  I hardly know the lilies' names, but I love having them in the garden and want to get more of them, to hear more of their stories.

Out in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, the plants tell family stories.

The Vegetable Garden Cathedral
They tell stories of gardens I've known long ago, where tomatoes grew to eight feet tall or taller and running up and down the rows was like running through a jungle made up of squash and beans, of peppers and tomatoes. The veg garden also tell stories of family gatherings, where fried okra was almost the main dish at supper-time and there were arguments about whether tomatoes should be sugared or salted before we ate them. I prefer them plain.

Sometimes the plants, with leaves showing the injuries, tell tales of insect invasions or diseases that seem to come like theives in the night into the garden.

The plants also tell stories of hot summer days, pop up thunderstorms and the twinkling lights of fireflies.
Coneflowers, washed clean by the rain

They tell tales of the south and wonder how they ended up so far north.

Camellia 'Snow Flurry' survived the winter!
I can almost hear the soft singing of "Dixieland" when the camellias tell their stories.

Everytime I go out into the garden, I hear so many stories.

Sometimes, the plants are mostly silent or speak in soft whispers, and other days they all try to tell their stories at the same time, like a band trying to play without a conductor. They tell stories I enjoy hearing year after year and surprise me with new stories I hope they will repeat.

Every plant has its own story to tell, and collectively they are the story of my garden, the story of my life.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Before you forget... I just ordered bulbs

Consider this a public service announcement, which I am only making because I've ordered my spring flowering, but you plant them in fall, bulbs.  Therefore, there is no risk that the bulbs I want will be out of stock if my public service announcement results in a mad rush to all the bulb sites to order bulbs.

Yes, that is my public service announcement. Now, right in the high time of the summertime, is a good time to order bulbs for spring flowers.

The bulb companies won't ship them until fall. They won't even charge your card until they ship them. Your order will just sit there in their system until some magical day in the fall.  On that magical day, they'll pull up your order, gather up all your bulbs and ship them to you.

It really will be magical when they arrive.

And it will be a surprise too, because by the time the bulbs arrive, you will have forgotten exactly what you ordered. You'll look at all those bulbs and wonder where you thought you were going to plant all of them. You'll wonder when you thought you were going to plant them.

It will be a wonder-fest of bulbs

May I suggest...

Plant them everywhere. Plant them in the fall.

I am.

I've bought more glory of the snow, Chionodoxa luciliae, for the lawn.

More Tulipa sylvestris for all kinds of places because they are one of my favorites.

And more Orienpet lilies, because I've recently been smitten by them.

I'll probably order more bulbs through the week. I need to go back and look at notes I made in the spring, examine pictures I took of the garden to see where there are holes, gaps, places crying out for bulbs.

And then in the fall, let the magic begin...