Monthly Archives: September 2010

A new Welsh Corgi takes to the garden


Boy things have been busy around here. After the passing of Baby Dear, our 11 year old corgi, I had started an e-mail hunt to get on “the list” of a breeder for a spring litter and puppy. I just happened on one breeder website that had 5 new pups that were unspoken for,( for the unitiated in corgi purchasing, this is unheard of) .So, Bill and I took a drive to NH just to see them (yeah,right!) andended up putting  a deposit on a little female pup.

AFTER the deposit was made, (but before the puppy came home) Tigger, our 3 year old male corgi, suffered a complete mental breakdown. The loss of his leader and friend sent him into a tailspin of cosmic proportions. He developed severe fear-agression toward other dogs, fear of the rope that he gets tied on in the yard closest to the road, fear of life in general. So now in addition to puppy training I am in dog training with him trying to gain control of his behavior and move forward. Yee-ikes. This is leaving me no time to garden whatsoever.

On the plus side, the puppy , her name is Pumpkin, adores the garden. She loves the ground cover plants  to hop all over, is thrilled by the arching dangling flowers of the guara, checks out the cool nooks under every shrub, and to my great dismay, puts every plant in her mouth. Neither of the other dogs have ever done this, so now I must brush up on the poisionous no-no’s and really work with her to learn to not taste everything in her path.

Another positive of the mayhem that is my world right now, is that my time spent outside is just viewing and taking in the beauty of the fall garden. Anemones are blooming, as is the black eyed susan vine. The Huchera and Hucherella plants show their vibrant foliage colors when the weather starts to cool and they are truly stunning. Sweet Autumn Clematis evelops the porch in its lovely scent and spray of white flowers,and the pink garden is alive with vibrant dhalias, the knockout roses , and snapdragons. I can finally just enjoy all the work of spring and summer, although not guilt free, at least knowing I have a more important job at this immediate time. All the work of re-edging, moving shrubs, cutting down perrenials will either wait or get skipped altogether.

Another positive side of  current events is that we are finally getting a fence around the side garden which I think will add lots of character, and new places to plant vines, and a whole new shrub bed near the road. Hmmmmmm……what shall I plant? Criteria to be met….1.)fall color….2.)winter interest  (structure,berries,etc)….3.)cheap ;)     ……any suggestions?

sweet atuumn clematis

huchera 'stoplight'

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Blue Mist spirea, blue mist shrub, whatever you call it is one happy asset to the late summer /fall garden. Trouble is, it can be really difficult to establish. I have tried caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’,  ‘First Choice’ and ‘Worcester Gold’ and caryopteris ‘Bluebeard’.

 The problems begin with the fact that although a shrub (or sub-shrub), here in Zone 5 ( 4 some winters) it will die back to the ground and hopefully reshoot from the roots.  But in a really cold or wet winter it will just die back, and forego the reshooting altogether. In one winter I lost several, and due to my plant labeling skills, who’s to say who it was that actually survived? I can rule out ‘Worcester Gold’, it leaves are yellowish, but after that it just becomes “caryopteris” .

 The problems continue if you forget that like many late bloomers it gets off to a slow start. Then you are apt to pull out the bunch of twigs you left that died, or replant in the  curious bare space that exists if you cut the stems in the fall. Sometimes gardening is nothing but a pain in the behind.

After the “Great Loss of ’08″ I now a.) leave the stems and b.) place a 4 inch pile of mulch over the base of the remaining, unnamed plant. Success. The caryopteris is beautiful this summer.

One of my other favorite shrubs in the fall (ish) time is snowberry, or symphoricarpos albus. It has glaucus blue leaves and although covered in small pink flowers all summer, they are reallly really tiny so it is hard to notice. this time of year it fruits in plump white berries that are a good food source for game birds like pheasant and quail, of which we have none. Therefore the berries remain on the shrub for an extended period of time and look great if you cut the brancehs to use in flower arrangements. They are also said to have a sedative effect on small children, which is a good enough reason as any to keep the shrub around. Some nights they just won’t go to bed, just kidding my friends, I use benadryl for that.

snowberry bush

Everything I have ever read says snowberry likes to be planted in the shade. well, here, as you know there is none, and it is a wonderful arching berry filled bush. It will sucker and colonize as it gets older, giving you shoots to share with your friends whose kids are unruly and hyper . It has a gentle nature though, so will not agressively annex all the real estate in your garden.


Theer are a few more shrubs that provide lots of color and bloom for me in late summer/early fall, they are the hydrangea paniculatas , both ‘limelight and ‘grandiflora’, the Hibiscus or Rose of Sharon,and  all the Knockout Rose bushes.

 Usually the side garden is awash in color also from the clethras, both ‘Ruby Spice’ and ‘Alba’, but this year in a stellar feat of idiocy I trimmed off alll the blooms when tidying the bushes for the garden tour in July. I really miss the sweet smell they infused throughout  the entire side yard off the porch where I sit and read.







knockout rose

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Back to the Bunnies

Well, I must say , this has been the most ridiculous year in the garden yet. We are still running around here like lunatics chasing rabbits, me with my long bamboo stick to flush’em out, Bill with his long black stick to finish’em off. There has been some noticeable improvement including sightings of predators (hawks and foxes) that may help alleviate the overpopulation somewhat. So what have I learned from this you wonder?

Well for starters, bunnies aren’t cute. They smell, they crap everywhere and they eat voraciously and do not do much else. I will never understand the bunnies as pets phenomenon. They just sit there , where is the fun in that? Anyway…

I also would like to dispel some myths I had heard. First , that bunnies eat at dawn and dusk , or even night, but never during the day. False, they eat 24/7 and could care less what the sun is doing or who is standing next to them for that matter.

Secondly, they will avoid herbs and fuzzy foliage. Wrong again. They liked my lavender and germander  just fine, ate rudbeckia leaves, and even thorns.

Third, bunnies will freeze when you startle them. Depends. Babies and young’uns are more apt to freeze, leaving you time for a clean shot. The older ones flee at record speed. That is why they are still alive. They are also not afraid of dogs, dog barking and frequently dine right next to where the dog has done it’s business. This I saw over and over, have no explanation for it either.

Although they would dine on just about anything, they definitely had favorites. Top of the list is a tie between asters and clematis. No asters survived their foraging  and the clematis are all caged off now for their own safety (thankfully they will re-grow from their roots ). Then in no particular order, they feasted on sedums (autumn joy and the other taller cultivars first, lower growers second), poppy flowers, ferns,euonymous, and purple sand cherry bushes (eating all lower leaves as soon as they grow).

Surprising things (to me) they ate are: any climbing rose canes in their reach no matter how thorny, the sedum, germander, lavendar, and daylily leaves.

Things they never touched: artemesia (‘silver king’ which is , ahem, silver, and lemon and lime which is guess what color combination??), coreopsis graniflora, ajuga, (they were welcome to whatever they wanted of this, guess they are plant snobs), bee balm , one happy surprise ,peony and one frustrating one , clover. There are about 40 or so peony plants scattered over the entire acre and not one leave  was touched even once. Go figure. And as for the clover, someone suggested to plant this and many sources said bunnies love this above all else. I planted some out back and let two patches invade the lawn and there they remain, un-nibbled and happily overtaking the grass that has taken me years to get into a good lawn.

In other craptastic news, the voles have been breeding like there is no tomorrow , and I took a photo of the back rock wall where they apparently decided all the sand that made up the base of the wall was in their way….. so they excavated it. Thank you voles.

And as if we needed even more craptastic thoughts….what was YOUR water bill like this year?… the money I spent on mine could have sent me to a place with frosty umbrella drinks and white sand…….sigh.

euonymous remains a bunny fav

cages as garden art?

all clematis are now caged and many are recovering, let’s see if this c.orientalis blooms, fingers crossed!

these sedums are very happy to be saved from the onerous critters

the lovely sand excavation done by the voles, why? I have no idea. I am going to wait until spring to re-build the wall. Grrrrrr…

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Baby Dear

On Saturday I was grumpy with Bill. Our weekend was not turning out as planned and as usual in feelings of stress and tension it feels good to hit the dirt to work them out. Out in the farthest reaches of the back 40 there was an area in front of two white pines we used to use as a brush pile. The brush has long been cleared but the ground was still a mess with two hilly areas where grass was growing again and unlevel spaces where weeds were taking over. It has been on my project list since spring. Early in May I had transplanted some forsythia shoots at the edge and now I attacked the grass, weeds and leftover twigs and branches and then in a fit of fury leveled the ground and covered it with pine needles and grass cliipings mixed as a mulch. Now instead of an eyesore I had to pass every time I went out back, it was a nice little grove of sorts that once the forsythia grows in will be lovely.

Then came Sunday and Baby Dear , our 11 year old corgi,was acting out of sorts, very quiet and subdued. At 8 o’clock Erin realized she hadn’t come in from outside yet so she went to get her and she would not climb the porch stairs. Erin carried her in and the girls laid with her on the floor while we had a family movie night. Then Erin carried her to where she likes to sleep and Faith and I gave her a pill that is like doggie advil. Baby Dear has had problems with her back before and has lately been having some other issues as well so I went to bed envisioning a day of vet visits and horrible conversations involving what we could and could not do for her. I awoke Monday to Bill standing over me telling me she had died during the night. That would so suit her personality, always thinking of us, and leaving in the most quiet and unobtrusive fashion. She brought such joy to this household, and they say you no matter how many pets you have there is always one who is your “soul-mate” pet, and she was mine. The hole in my heart is gaping and painful.

We gathered the kids together and got her  wrapped up and they brought out her bowls (she LOVED her food!) and her favorite toys, and we gave her a resting place under the two pines in the little grove I had cleared on Saturday.

That is some kind of gardening providence, how much easier that horrible situation was made by having the perfect place for her, near us in the garden, yet somewhere that will remain undisturbed and be shaded and restful.

We could never have given back to her what she gave to us, the love , the happiness, the comfort. She was a princess of dogs, and truly my Baby Dear. I will miss her in a way words can not describe.

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