Sunday, May 30, 2010

Native Plants garden tour

The Native Plants garden tour last weekend was a rousing success. I joined Pat and Becky to view the Littles' garden (amazing) and several others above the college, then after lunch went on my own to see Cessie Howell's. It was a treat to see real gardens, complete with a few weeds and other evidence that humans made these gardens, and get the chance to talk with the gardener herself. The garden with a hand-dug pond (in shade, no less) was quite amazing. I think my favorite, though, was the garden with the Gold Star Emporium sign, the sculptural sycamore tree and the river of white impatiens going down either side of the lawn. Follow the link (click on the image) to see some beautiful roses, a hidden garden that was not on the tour, and two mystery plants - if you can identify them, let me know!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Every day I've been peeking out the bedroom window to track the progress of the catbird nest. Mrs. C is usually sitting on it quietly, only occasionally taking a break. But yesterday morning when I peeked out, I found it obviously assaulted. The next is askew and only three eggs are left, with the mama nowhere to be seen. I'm holding out hope that the catbirds will rally, but it's looking grim. I blame the neighbor's many cats, one of whom was headed this way when I left for work the other day.

Here's a picture through the window screen:
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shade, eggs, furniture

First off, eggs. The two catbird eggs are now four, so I am relieved that my aggressive pruning didn't stop the catbirds for more than a minute. I can peek out at the nest from my bedroom window, where mama sits quietly, only her little bright black eye showing that she's alive. Do birds have eyelids or just nictating (sp?) membranes. I should ask a librarian.

Gary delivered the potting bench this week and it's glorious. I hope to have time next weekend to outfit it as needed. I had asked for hooks, and boy, did I get them - he told me he just used all the hooks in the package.
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Susan Harris over at Homestead Gardens has a great posting on brightening shade with shrubs. Having seen bottlebrush buckeye on yesterday's native gardening tour (more on that later), I am more and more intrigued. I think it would work well as a border along the west side of the back garden. Said to work well en masse, so maybe three along there?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The catbird seat

Apparently, that seat is in the middle of one of my boxwoods.

Today I finally started pruning the boxwoods. It's one of the projects that, once started, so clearly is way overdue that I wonder my fellow gardeners had not long since taken me aside for an intervention.

At any rate, as I clipped merrily along, I spotted a nest. I came back with my camera, assuming it was empty, but no! Two little blue eggs, and once I withdrew, the catbird couple flew around to see what havoc I had wrought.
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I dearly hope I haven't scared them away. I think I can spy on them from my bedroom window if I stay quiet as a mouse.

Compost heaven

I've been composting for years, with good success but such a mess! I had one of those brown plastic bins, which was fine but not big enough. It was similar to this one, but not as fancy.

I bought these plastic things that hook together in a circle, allegedly, but always bowed in leaving only a tiny opening for all the stuff.
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I also used big plastic bags to hold shredded leaves.

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In the end, good compost, but the composting area looked like Tobacco Road.

No longer! I've found someone who is building me a real compost bin that will neat, tidy and big enough (I hope) to hold everything. It's from a Lowe's plan, features lids (to come), removable front slats for easy turning (not that I ever turn my compost, but maybe now I'll be inspired), wire sides, and is firmly positioned on top of concrete blocks. Here it is almost completed, and I got the okay to start loading it up.

My only fear is that it's not quite big enough (6' x 3'), but it should take care of most of the mess.

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In the course of moving stuff around and digging out a level space, Gary unearthed a big mound of compost, which I am now delightedly sifting and spreading throughout the garden.

Only a fellow gardener will appreciate how wonderful this is. Plus, the nice man will replace the decaying plywood panels on my Garden Way cart, and he'll build me a potting bench to take the place of the ancient picnic table. (I'm thinking of this plan.) The compost area will be quite spiffy by the time he's done.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day blooms

In bloom today, lots of blue:

columbines (white and blue)*
coral bells*
tradescantia (white and blue)*
yellow, white and blue Siberian iris*
fuchsia azalea
perennial geraniums (white and pink)
one lone cosmos
peonies ('Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Susan Hepler')
allium triquetrum (still! and not wearing out its welcome, either)
rosa 'Zepherine Drouhin'
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*thanks, Mom

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tiny (scientific) miracles

The voles seem to have eaten up several hostas and tiarellas, but there are a few survivors among the mix. The Paul's Glory hosta showed itself timidly as I was about to plant June in its place (and did), so I moved the tiny seedling to the bed in front of the shed, where it can perk up the mundanes that grow there. NOTE as of 5/9 - another couple of hostas have reappeared, so maybe the vole damage is not lasting?

The native wild ginger is not as attractive as the silvery speckled European ones, but it certainly is vigorous. And today I found the flowers that bloom below the leaves, giving them the common name "little brown jug."

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the late lamented Carroll Gardens may have been a funny operation, but the owner spoke with great authority, causing me to purchase a rhododendron 'Caroline' purely because he raved about it as "An exceptional Yak hybrid...There is no better Rhododendron than the Caroline....beautiful clusters of blush orchid-toned flowers will cover the evergreen foliage, a display that will take your breath away. Not only pleasing to eye, the subtle fragrance will lightly perfume your entire garden," and so on. Well, I planted it and watched it sit there sullenly, putting forth a few awkward branches, and then today it bloomed. I would not call it a display, but rather one little foretaste of the beauty to come - if I keep it, and if I grow it for many years to come.


But it's pretty darn nice.

The Last Day

of the gardening vacation, that is. Despite the heat and humidity, I tidied up at least some of the open loops. The new raised bed is now planted with tomatoes, eggplant, parsley and basil, plus the annual flowers I raised from seed: cosmos, cleome, tithonia, calendula, bronze fennel.

Above,the seedlings ready to be launched.

Here, the raised bed planted with the tiny things.

The cutting garden opposite has been planted with zinnias from the Rappahannock Adult Activities' Mayfest (such a deal, and for a good cause), plus the dahlias Martha passed along. I must confess that they were gallantly growing in the dark of the shed when I found them a month ago and potted them up. Who could resist such courage? Some are marked "salmon" and some are marked "?."

More dahlias, cosmos and tithonia are planted along the walkway garden for what I fear will be a riot of color once they all bloom.

In the back corner, the hydrangeas have been planted and about half of the bed has been covered with newspaper and mulch and well watered in.

Ran out of mulch (and time and energy) but plan next weekend to finish up the bed and install some hostas.

If I had yet another week? Definitely, pruning the overgrown box, pruning the honeysuckle (after it blooms and releases its heavenly aroma, then death to it), edging the cutting garden and the shrub border, grubbing out more ivy... It goes on and on. As Margaret Roach says of the May gardening list, scream or cry??