Monthly Archives: May 2011

It’s A Purple-y Day in the Neighborhood

Welcome to the only brief time when purple is the dominat color in my garden. It was not done in any way intentionally, just the timing of what is blooming early, before the show really begins around here.

Of course there are the several cultivars of liac (other than Miss Canada which blooms pink), bearded iris, the opening spires of baptisia, salvia, the johnny jump ups and pansy I let seed at will, the ajuga that covers all the bare ground I have not planted yet,the spurs of columbine, nepata ,jacob’s ladder(‘stairway to heaven’)  and my earliest blooming large flowered clematis called’ Elsa Spath’. This year the blooms on Elsa are HUGE and it is windy and they are being difficult to photograph in all their expansive flowery-ness. ( I gave it my best shot)

 Anyway, I will enjoy the purple while it lasts,it may not be my favorite color but it beats the heck out of the dreaded yellow time that comes during the late summer lull.

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The edible garden?

Up until yesterday, I have always been able to say that if there was something edible growing in this yard it was by accident or coincidence. I have never planted vegetables here, and had no desire to cater to their whims as there is a perfectly wonderful farmers market here in town where the produce is cheap, and I also have friends who chase me around with zucchini and green beans that I think they would pay me to take off their hands becuase  they are so inundated with them and feel guilty composting that which they have worked so hard to grow.

Then, my sister in law had a conversation with my daughter Faith, wherein she explained the unbridled joy of harvesting and eating  your own corn…. and I got that look we mothers are so often greeted with when our offspring realize that there is some fun in the world we have been expressly keeping from them, and the pressure to have a veggie garden was on.

The other part of my reluctance to plant vegetables here stems from the fact that other than Faith, (who will eat corn and broccoli) no one here eats them but me. Occasionally I have stuck a single cherry tomato plant in a porch on the deck and along with the gifted produce  that has been more than enough for my personal consumption. But now, my cutting garden, the source of my beloved zinnias, Bells of Ireland, sunflowers, stock, and endless summer flower  arrangements, will yield corn, Kentucky wonder beans, and cucumbers instead.

In the small plot there was already standing a willow tee-pee that I grew bottle gourds on (for birdhouses and decorations) so the bean seeds went in at it’s base. Then we tilled and mounded and made 5 rows and dutifully planted a seed every few inches down each one. A  little area toward the front has cucumbers that are suppose to grow in a bush, but I am skeptical because I am aware of their vining take over the world nature, and will believe it when I see it. Faith made labels to mark the rows, and last night mother nature watered it for us (yep, more rain) so I hope to see seedlings soon.

But…it doesn’t end there. This past weekend was my garden club’s plant sale and in the odd fit that often grips me at such events I bought something I did not intend to re-plant in my yard: strawberries. Last year it was Heritage raspberry canes which in a fit of a different kind centered around yet another kind of guilt, I planted way way way out back , under a white pine where there is no sun or irrigation , and they have languished since.

Buoyed by Faith’s enthusiasm for the vegetable garden, I mentioned the strawberries, which were greeted with wide eyed wonder and a cheerful willingness to keep gardening with me. So I got out the strawberry pot, which up until now has always grown thyme or sedum , and we planted our new strawberry plants.

On a roll now, I went out back and rescued the poor raspberry canes, a move I know I will come to regret deeply, and moved them to new spaces along the fence near the road. As they take over the world that is my front yard, I am hoping they can repay me for all the expensive real estate I am giving them by using their thorny canes to stop Tigger from charging the fence every time some poor soul tries to walk by with their dog.

We will see what comes of all of this. My experience thus far in life with blueberries, broccoli(at my last house) and even my apple trees , is that the food I am trying to grow  is for the critters, and I am their personal produce provider. The cutting garden is fenced in, so that may deter the rabbits, but the birds are another story, and who knows what else has been anxiously awaiting my foray into edible gardening. At the very least , if we get to enjoy even a few ears of corn, which is Faith’s favorite, I will deem it a success.

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Rain Rain go away….

Without tempting the unniverse to go sahara  on my a**, could it just be sunny for a little bit? Or maybe just a few degrees warmer so the word “raw ” can be excused from my weather vocabulary for a while? I have things to do, and the garden waits for no woman , what needs doing needs doing now.

My pants are wet, my sweatshirt is so wet it weighs about 40 lbs, my wellies have been keeping my feet dry , but muddy-ing up the deck and walkways, the soil is saturated and the plants are drooping and can I mention wet mulch=heavy mulch and it is much too dificult to spread.

It rained yesterday, the day before that it poured, it rained off and on today and when it was not raining there was a fine mist in the air being blown about by the wind which is highly uncomfortable to be outside in. It will rain tommorow, and the day after that, and maybe even the day after that one too.

I think back to another May we had like this (2004?), that year it went into June the same cold wet  way.  Plants just rotted in the ground and fungal diseases abounded .The poor things  had no way to escape the water and they just turned to mush and there was nothing I could do about it. Frustration ensued and that is just  not pleasant to be around, trust me.

I also can’t  take any decent pictures, but I will post what I have taken so far. The crabapple trees all looked incredible this year, and the lilacs are starting to bloom. The spring blooming shrubbery was unstopable, going for days longer than it ever has. The magnolia never got nipped by frost, the forsythia and azeleas are still in bloom, and three clematis that never bloom this early are all budded out.

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This is usually a great time to show off the garden, but no one wants to be outside and that counts for my worker-bees too. CJ has taken to doing inside chores (folding laundry, vaccuuming etc) so he won’t have to get soaked and chilled to the bone anymore. Our first cookout of the year( in honor of his college graduation) is this weekend.

 I will take partly cloudy, passing brief showers, threat of afternoon quick passing storm, or even  morning rain if it is followed by a sunny afterenoon. I will not accept  any more day long rains with temps in the 40′s and low 50′s .

 The end.

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Exhausted, but in the very best way

There are lots of ways to spend a day that will sap every ounce of energy you have and leave you headed for the couch and the advil bottle. My all time least favorite is a day spent at Boston Children’s hospital ( where my daughter is a patient), followed by any trip involving amusement parks, air travel or clothes shopping,  That’s a pretty wacky list, but we are who we are.

Today I got my energy sapped by spending 3 hours volunteering at an historic house in my town, where I am re-doing the gardens, then coming home and spending 5 more planting bare root roses, a few shrubs, dividing  phlox, moving  a few clematis, and trying to make a suitable bed for iris ensata  which wants constantly moist soil, a tough trick for those of us who garden in sand.

Already exhausted, my downward spiral  started with the roses that arrived yesterday and needed to go in the ground ASAP. David Austin Roses sends these bare root roses that first make me laugh at how ridiculously large their bare roots are and then make me cry as I try to dig a hole big enough to fit them. After they were all planted and watered I hit that state where you are too tired to effectively do any task without calling on every muscle you have to pitch regardless of their sutability for said task,   resulting in very awkward digging indeed.

 In that  reduced capacity, I figured why not go for broke ? and dig another hole deep enough to accomadate a large ( 3ft diameter) pan meant for a small fountain to hold soil and water for the iris.

Then on to the phlox, which might as well been welded into the ground for all the effort it took me to dig them out and divide them. Moving the clematis was not so bad because they are just babies, but along the way some more grass had to be taken out and more water lugged and that was when CJ showed up and told me to go shower he was taking me to a movie for Mother’s Day. Sweet sweet CJ, thank you for saving me from myself.

When we got to the theatre ( to see Thor, which was great BTW) CJ was standing outside the car waiting for me to get out and he turned and said, and I quote, “Why are you moving like an old lady today?” Good thing I was too tired to even try to take a swing at him. And I guess the fact that it is a time to celebrate being a mother,and by” celebrate” they don’t mean  ”attempt bodily harm on your offspring”  contibuted to his escape as well.

 Now I am home , and evey muscle in my “old lady” body is T I R E D. I want hot tea, a book about anything but gardening, and my comfy bed with 20 pillows stacked up high around me. I want to sleep late, awake to breakfast in bed, and gifts (lots of gifts).

Being exhausted on a day when you have done something you didn’t enjoy, followed by the fact that you may or may not get enough sleep, and may or may not have another horrific day in front of you, feels much different than exhaustion caused by doing your favorite activity on the eve of the only day you are not expected to get up and do anything except open a present or two ….although .it better be more than two, and it better not be plants!

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All that Glitters is Silver (and Burgandy)

Now that I have had ample time to assess my unfortunate rabbit situation, my gardening direction has become clear.

Here are the facts Jack:

A.) The rabbits love to death all the new green growth that pops out of the ground in spring. Anything that emerges green will be eaten to within a millimeter of it’s life , even if they would never touch it after it matures. Rolled hosta leaves waiting to unfurl, the first head poke of a clematis vine, the asparagus like tips of my lilies, all have fallen victim and many do not recover enough to grow and survive.

B.)They will leave vitually untouched any plant that emerges silver or burgandy like artemesia, peony, random clematis vines, etc. It is clearly a useful strategy on the plants part to avoid consumption by simple color confusion.

C. )It’s not easy being green

So I have adapted the way Iam planning and protecting my spring garden.

 I am covering all clematis vines with the grow tubes commercial tree growers use to protect saplings from animal damage. They are ug-ug-ugly , but are serving the purpose quite effectively

I am caging all plants who if they are nibbled upon emergence  can’t recover (like lily stalks)

I am spraying  a few others that seem to get hit hard, like asters, which if left unprotected will all be chewed voraciously and daily

I have kept careful track of what they will always eat, sometimes eat, and never eat and am only planting those species that fall in the “never” category in any new beds and as replacemensts for those poor babies who did not survive last year’s onslaught.

Under the “never eat” category falls peony, penstemon’husker red’,artemesia,ladies mantle (too fuzzy I think), huchera cultivars with any variation of purple/burgandy leaves,ajuga,lavendar (mostly but not always avoided), iris, hydrangea, stachys,rosa glauca, nepata, yarrow ‘coronation gold”,  many salvias, thymes and threadleaf coreposis.

So more and more the garden will change to adapt to our new rabbit reality, I sincerely hope they do not adapt to it and all of a sudden feel like burgandy is the ‘NEW’ green and silver is the tasty treat gold once was.

(just in case you think I am exaggerating..check out what they did to this azalea- chewing  as the snow cover piled up leaving only the very bottom and very top leaves, sadness for him and his kind as they were all similarly treated. renewal pruning after bloom is their only hope now)

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