Monthly Archives: July 2011

Morning Glories

Looking back , and I mean waaaaay back, to my life as a child, I think there were always voices in my head telling me what direction my life should take. For years, like the rest of small beings, they were drowned out by the well meaning intentions of my parents and teachers, and later on by my own misdirected and hormonal voices that as a know- it- all teenager could have drowned out a jet engine.

Now, as a all-grown up adult, I can hear them loud and clear, and I as I think back I can see they what they were telling me when I wasn’t listening.

Ask any of my siblings (2 sisters and 1 brother) about their childhood and they will wax on about childhood friends, neighborhood kickball games, and the veritable zoo of pets that and any one time resided within our walls. My younger sister has a phenomanal memory of places and people and astounds me with her recall of events  long forgotten by me 5 minutes after they happened.

If you were to ask me about my childhood home for instance, I will struggle to tell you what color it was ( maybe blue maybe green, maybe both although I don’t ever recall it getting painted), what the front steps looked like, or even they layout of the inside rooms. It is all very fuzzy and located in a place in my brain I apparantly do not have good access to.

But in full technicolor with oflactory back-up I can walk you around our yard. As you came down our dirt driveway the left side was bordered by  a lilac hedge that belonged to the neighbor, and was glorious in the spring. The hedge was on the far side of their house, so picking was always an option. At the termination of the hedge, and now in our yard, was a giant horsechestnut tree. Those massive leaves, the incredilble inflorencence, followed by what every kid dreams of; free stuff from nature that can be used as weapons. The mace like seed pods of the chestnut provided many a colorful word when stepped on, and lots of battles pitching them at each other.Fun stuff  indeed. 

Straight on from there you were looking at the front of the house, where to the right loomed an easlily  100 foot pine that shaded the whole driveway. To the right of the pine was a little raised bed my Dad sometimes grew strawberries in.

To the left side of the house was another evergreen, probably a spruce as it’s branches remained all the way to the ground. In back of that was a skinny maple that was always ringed with pansies my Mother planted. To the left of the maple was an old cherry tree that my Dad (?) built a landing/treehouse in. The tree’s trunk separated into three parts only a few feet off the ground making it very easy to climb.The cherries were never edible, but as a loookout perch it was ideal.

In the “back” yard next to the white house with the very nasty dog, my Dad had  enclosed an area with wire fencing and often grew vegetables (tomatoes, cukes, green beans, and oddly I recall rhubarb but can’t remeber if that is where it was planted).

Behind our clothesline, was the back end of our neighbor, Mr. Burke’s, property. His land was shaped like a very long rectangle, so although his house was further down almost on Main Street, his backyard was way back here abutting ours. In this peice of land that was un-tended to , grew all sorts of fun stuff including raspberries and blackberries we could pick and eat while standing there looking furtively about in case he was watching. At the edge of his land and separating us from another house was a large hedge that I would swear was privet, but I remember it being very tall, which may not be the case as I was little. We had carved out a little opening in the bottom so you could squish down and actually get into the hedge and hide.

If you went to the end of our road you would enter a wood, ownership unknown, where there were lots of trees to climb and trails to follow until you hit the railroad tracks, an area I think we were not supposed to be in.

All in all, I think our yard was pretty small, but it held such wonders for me. I remember raking leaves (fondly ,which I know is odd ) and making up many games in and around yard. I remember the earwigs that inhabited the veggie garden, and got on the laundry when it was hung on the clothes line to dry.

It is telling that my fondest memory is that skinny maple ringed by pansies, and I am guessing that the flower gardener in me was focusing on the one area in the yard that was adorned. There was also magically ( or so I thought) a perfectly true blue morning glory vine that appeared there eevry summer twinning up the tree and blooming that odd and mesmerizing color. This year I have purchased seeds, which I started indoors in May of that same vine, ipomoea violacea .I have done this in the past, with little success, usually by the time the vine gets big enough to flower the first frost hits the next day, and they are trash.

But this year the morning glories are , in a word,  GLORIOUS! Ahhhhh memories.

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just in case you thought this looked easy…..

Looking at gardening magazines, blogs, and websites it is easy to believe that there are those “green thumbs ” out there that are just kickin it better than you , and causing you intense feelings of inferiority and failure.

But , upon closer inspection I belive you may find that it ain’t all easy street over yonder and the failures mount up as fast as the successes, some of us  just know how to aim the camera right  or downplay the mess with clever distractions  and handy container plantings.

This week I thought for a little reality check  as well as a well deserved humbling, I would post some photos of some mighty bad gardening going on here in the Burrow.

We start with a scented geranium that is obviously getting the wrong treatment as it has been suffering yellow leaves no matter how I adjust it’s watering schedule. It sits on the steps with 9 others, all green leaved and blooming.Sigh, you just can’t make everyone happy.

Right next to the geranium pots lives a rose who for some reason this year got affected by black spot so horribly it is entirely leafless. Four other roses are within 10 feet, all fine.

On to the clematis whose ugly brown lower  leaves( that typically appear on this cultivar) should be hidden by a bluebery bush growing next to it, but obviously are not , the blueberry looks like crap.

Next to the blueberries and clematis lives an azalea that is finally happy after several moves, but the loosestrife planted beneath it has been attacked by the biggest slugs you have ever seen, apparantly I need to pay better attention to this front garden. Suprisingly , this loosetrife which is variegated ( and now very holey) will only stay variegated here in slugville. Elsewhere in the garden it has reverted back to green and remains intact and slug free. Harumph.

Moving toward the new border you can see  this array of annuals on which some leaves appear to have gone missing making a very ugly display.

Over by the fence this poor mallow had so many leaves and stalks missing and broken down to the ground for easier eating that it is now caged and will hopefully recover (unlike the rabbit who was snacking on it “insert evil laugh here”)

Next you can feast your eyes on what should be a stunning display of clematis’Dr. Ruppel’ and pink threadleaf coreopsis. Where is the clematis? you ask…. it got wilt ..I answer …with a supressed sob.

Moving on to more foliar diseases we can discover a clump of bee balm (monarda’Marshalls Pink’) that has powdery mildew like no ones business, although all other clumps of the same variety are chugging along mildew free…

then this very large very old mallow that has suffered two years in a row from whatever this is (could be a fungus could be possibly mites.. I am not sure). It has been cut back and will be shovel pruned later this week. Sad goodbye to an old friend.

It would not be a typical garden year here without some loss to the dreaded Japanese Beetle. This Cpt, Sam Holland Rose is getting the brunt of their muching this year. Someday some bird is going to figure out they make good eating and save us all from their destruction

And now a christmas fern who,like it’s broithers can’t seem to grow enough for the rabbits to ever leave it alone

new this year, the Japanese Beetles are also  eating my ferns? Say what?

This new rhodie is part of a group of plants that are in terrible shape because unbeknownst to me, the fence installers broke an irrigation  line, and the plants in that area  have been getting zero water. I got that fixed last week but they will all need to time to recover.

This clematis durandii has been around for 7 years and only bloomed a handful a times. I should be able to solve this one, yet despite my best efforts, nada.
And to wrap it up Mother Nature has escalated the season all over the yard , as demonstrated by this caryopteris that should provide LATE summer and early fall bloom, but is blooming now along with a few Rose of Sharons. Waaaaay out of line my friends!

There it is , the garden in all it’s non-glory. There is no more frustrating , humbling place than a garden, but also no place I would rather be :)

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Snapdragon carnival

Just a quick posting with some July photos…

We had so much snow cover here this past winter that the snapdragons not only survived but seeded everywhere. There are many interesting colors now but this grouping is by far my favorite. The pink ones were planted in this locatio last year , along with a stray yellow not too far away. Now parent plants and seddlings are all blooming together in a great carnival of colors that I could never have hoped to put together any other way. Amazing.

The first dhalia bloom of the season

sweet peas and shasta daisy

coneflower and daisy

clematis ‘ernest markham’ growing behind a window box of torinia and moss rose

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City Boy

Last weekend Bill and I hosted a large fundraiser for The Pan Mass Challenge( which supports the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Faber) and thus had a crazy few days leading up to the event on Friday. Saturday  morning we left at the crack of dawn for New Jersy to go to  a family graduation party. On Sunday we drove home and Bill got out of the car and onto the lawn mower because he was leaving for Florida at 4 am Monday, follwed by a flight out to Monterey CA wednesday (to see David graduate from the Defense Language Institute) and would be gone a total of another 7 days which is too long to go without mowing.

After a long week that ended with getting stuck at LAX for 14 hours, then a delay in Chicago for 5, Bill crawled home and into bed Suday afternoon exhausted but thankfully having the 4th and 5th off to recover. The big holiday plan was to get in  a lot of R&R  , grill food and consume lots of adult beverages around the pool. BUT, we all know how these things work out here…..

There is a birdhouse mounted on a pole of the fence inside the pool area, and since April there have been two barn swallows that are living in and around it. I have been checking constantly for eggs and nestlings but so far: nothing. The running joke around here is that they are our resident gay couple, and it’s nice to have a little diversity in the yard. I felt bad for them as they were REALLY REALLY trying to have babies but something was obviously awry. Well, a few weeks ago a third barn swallow joined up with them, and voila! Baby birds!

Now, against all laws of nature, the three of them guard the nest and happily feed and tend to their brood. …..and guess what?…..we are in their  way.

Usually no one nests in that particular house after the pool is opened. But now that these swallows waited so darn long, we are trying to frolic where they are trying to run a nursery. In their attempts to get us to shove off, they repeatedly swoop down at anyone who is in or around the pool.

City Boy (aka Bill) is not happy. When we went out early on the 4th, he watched with horror as the birds were diving at the girls in the pool. I had already ventured past the nest and was seated on a chaise lounge near the deep end and was only getting occaisonally swooped. He yelled out to us that he was not coming out to the pool and we reassured him that although they did come awfully close, they did not hit you or peck at you so you just ignore them. He was in no way convinced and ducked and ran swearing all the way out to the chaise lounges.

While trying to relax and read my book, I was constantly peppered with his comments and ramblings regarding the birds.

“I didn’t ask to live in a frickin arboretum”, …..”You and your GD gardens and birdhouses, how did we ever end up married ? ”…etc etc. Then had to fend off threats. “I am going to take that birdhouse down right now” … followed by..”I am going to get the gun”….which he did.

I begged and cried, and told my city boy to please just sit, which he finally  did , but  he continued to rant on about how he wanted to cement over the whole yard, how he hates wildlife, and how I am ruining his  precious few days off with my birds.

I tried to explain to him how it was only temporary , that I had peered in and the nestlings were almost ready to leave and after they did I would re-locate the birdhouse promptly. He was unconvinced. Eventually I got up and moved all the furniture  on to the deck away from the birds where he continued to sulk until he had enough alcohol in him to settle down.

Today the girls were out swimming  and I had them try to distract mama papa and “uncle” bird so I could see how close the birds were to leaving Bill in peace, but when I  opened the box too fast one of the babies fell out and mayhem ensued. After much squawking and swooping and attempts at actually hitting me, I had to go in and get a golf umbrella to hold over my head while I tried to rescue the baby from under the hosta. Unfortunately the baby is old enough to flap and attempt  to fly so I could not catch it, but  it is still not strong enough for take-off from the ground. Crap. Now the girls are horrified that it probably will not survive .

City Boy is going to be very happy when I tell him, one down, three to go.

“uncle”making sure no one even tries to swing in the hammock

If you look closely you can see baby right in between two bottom petunia blooms

Where mama and papa have stood since the incident

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I like Plants

Over the horrible rainy and cold weather last week when I was forced inside , and especially while I was chaperoning 15 teenagers at my daughter Erin’s end of school party, I killed lots of time going from website to website, blog to linked blog ,enjoying gardens from a ll over the country and a few in Canada and England too.I thoroughly enjoy seeing how excited people are with the success of their gardens. 

Photos always accompany the stories, and some are amazing in their clarity, detail and lighting, and some (like my own) very amateur and pedestrian. Sometimes the writing is top notch, sometimes not, but I find all the stories endearing because of the love we gardeners and garden bloggers all share for our gardens and our plants.

What I quite frankly do not like, in even the tinniest way, are plant snobs. One website I visited this weekend infuriated me in such a way that I felt inclined to post nasty comments, or even better try to spam his site. He goes by the name Renegade Gardener and honestly, his opinions are full of self-important egotistical hogwash. (He is not alone in his poorly thought out comments , I just was angered at his conviction and nastiness ).

We all want to be better gardeners. I define that as being someone who seeks to better the land space around them, in a way that suits them, causing as little damage to the world at large as possible, and who  is always seeking better and  more efficient ways to grow the plants they love.

See that, the plants THEY love, not the plants YOU love. This guy basically slammed anyone who dared to grow a daylily, or aspired to have a beautiful hedge of arbovitae, or basically anyone who wanted to garden with common plants.

 I do not know how to type the “raspberry” sound or I would give it to him. I enjoy a daylily, and love a deep green hedge of arbs as a background to a flower border.  There are a plethora of  plants I do not care for at all……structural plants like agave and yucca make me wince, hostas bore me because , like many foliage plants , I fail to grasp the pleasure of minute variations of detail in a leave. I am a flower chick.

 BUT I can tell you how fully I appreciate a garden lovingly planted and tended with them, or any other plant for that matter.  The list of stuff I grow here would be an embarrassment to type so I won’t, but suffice it to say, I grow an overused plant ( or 20 ) and totally without apology. On the flip side i have collections of certain plants that you will hardly ever see anywhere else.

 There are many “rare” and or “must have” plants for “serious” gardeners you will never ever see here.  Among them :

Spring ephemerals  (too small, bloom time waaayyy too short),

Plants that push my hardiness zone (here that is a just setting up a date with failure and disappointment )

Large foliage plants like Rodgersia or Castor bean or elephant ears, I have even banned canna ( I get the willies thinking about the rain forest and or jungles, and it is so windy here the leaves tatter so I would not use them even if I loved them , OCD you know)….but as an exception I have ‘sum and substance’ hosta which is huge and grown for foliage, and I like it and that is that.

But YOU can grow them all you want, lots of them. I will tell you how lovely they look in your yard and probably take lots of pictures.

The whole point of any gardening is to take a space and transform it into something you enjoy, so  if you want an acre of daylilys….have at it!  Ignore anyone who tells you your efforts are not good enough, or your taste too simple. Or cheerfully point out their inadequacies and harp on their trend- following- keep up with the joneses- mentality, you’ll feel better.

Moss Phlox: ubiquitous, boring

Bridal Wreath Spirea : Nauseatingly common

Whats wrong with this picture? : apparantly the arborvitae is unnacceptable

Daylilys: Not only orange, but the roadside ditch variety too! BAH!

Guess I need to re-do the whole garden……….    lmao, not a chance!

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