Thursday, December 31, 2009

I've been reading Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest, which I got for Christmas.  It's spurred me to make new plans for a good-sized cold frame in the front yard, right against the house, where I get the most light and radiant heat in the winter.  Not much else to do gardening-wise in Maine in the winter other than plan for next year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

final mulching

With our first snow expected this evening, I put down some final mulch around my garden:  some chopped oak leaves around my strawberries, and (after trimming the Christmas tree) some boughs around my grape vine and clematis.  I've gathered the kindling and put some logs in the basement to dry:  I'm ready for the winter!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a new compost bin

Today I built a second compost bin out of scrap wood I had pulled up when repairing my deck.  The wood isn't in the best shape, but I'm assuming it'll decompose, and then I'll find more scrap in a few years.

Monday, November 9, 2009

chives anyone?

Clearing the leaves from my yard, I noticed I had some chives blooming! Also reblooming are a number of yarrow, May Night  sage, coreopsis and gaillardia.   Among the annuals, I still have petunias, nicotiana, verbena, and callibrachoa (spell?) still blooming.  Bizarre.

I mulched up a lot of my oak leaves and spread them around my butterfly bushes.  I'll probably do the same for some of my other shrubs and perennials, but I have to read up on which ones need protection.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Frost, finally

Is this the latest frost date on record?  Last night the cold finally killed off my cosmos.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Still no frost; garden clean-up

Still no hard frost here, which is bizarre.  Last night was the first close call, but my cosmos, snapdragons and nicotiana are still producing buds.  I now have a 7-foot cosmos blooming in the middle of my peach tree, which makes it look like the peach tree is blooming.  My mums are doing great, and I still have some Russian sage and black-eyed susans in bloom.  

Today was a clean-up day:  I sucked up two bags of leaves (mostly oak) in my electric leaf blower and composted them, one straight into the bin, the other I turned over into my raised bed to let it break down over time.  I also pulled all the leaves of my irises and day-lilies, and cut down my asters and (dis-)obedient plants, which I should have done sooner since they've gone to seed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Hygiene

October 21 and my Fall garden is still going strong.  As you can see from the photos below, I have lots of purples and reds in my garden, both from flowers and foliage.  

I did quite a bit of cleanup today, pulling a lot of the annuals that have stopped flowering, especially the verbena, cosmos, zinnias and petunias, though quite a few of them are still have lots of buds on them and haven't suffered from frost damage yet.  My compost bins are now filled to the brim, and I still have so much more green material to pull out of the ground before the season is over, so I don't know what I'll do.

I also decided to do a little more moving of plants today, taking my perennial grasses out of their pots and putting them into the ground, and moving a bunch of (dis-)obedient plant to the parking strip, where I don't care how aggressive it it.  (Let it try to compete with the yarrow!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

bed preparation

Today I continued preparing the (unframed) raised bed that I'm putting in in my front garden, shelling out for two bags of Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend (a great mix of soil, compost, seaweed extract and peat).  Before I did that, I threw 100 chiondoxa bulbs underneath it, and tamped them down with my feet, so that they are now buried about 2-3 inches.  Together with the alliums there, they should make a nice Spring display before I put in my vegetables.

On one side of the raised bed, I put in five reblooming daylilies (75% off at Lowe's) as a margin, and on the other side, freshened up my pathway with two more bags of pea gravel.

All this was done in this afternoon's rain, so I didn't need to water anything in. 

Here's to Spring planning!  I love the anticipation that comes with putting in lots of bulbs, then waiting for the blooms in Spring.  Too bad it's such a long wait.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

still no frost; moving and planting

I'm amazed that I have yet to get a killing frost here.  The historical first-frost date is September 31, so this is quite extraordinary.  Given that our last-frost date has been pushed back by two weeks, it means we get an extra month of gardening.  (Not that this doesn't mean troubling things for our planet.)

I pulled the last of my tomatoes, peppers and parsley a few days ago, and moved my lettuce underneath my little cold frame to try to get a few more weeks out of them.  

Today was a big moving and planting day:  I'm planning on a new raised bed in my front yard (since it gets more sun), so I had to move a bunch of plants, including phlox (david), boltonia, ox-eye daisies, joe-pye weed, a veronica spicata, one bee balm, and a hydrangea.  I turned everything over (including the hundreds of annoying ox-eye daisies starting out), threw a hundred alliums (cowanii) and about ten garlic cloves around the area, then put down some soil and compost over it all, and watered it in.  I also watered all the plants I moved.

I also had time (though the days are getting short!) to plant more spring bulbs, putting in some squill, tete-a-tete daffodils, and allium bulgaricum around where I had planted them last year.  I still have to plant my chiondoxa and anemones, but I imagine I'll have more time to do that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

bulbous bulbs

Planted my first Spring bulbs yesterday afternoon, good-sized Woodstock hyacinths from Scheeper's.  I loved using my bulb augur, though it's a bit wide for little bulbs.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall chores

Buckets of rain have come down today, which is fine by me, since my fall garden needs it before the first hard frost.  But I had planned on planting Spring bulbs today and don't want to tramp over soggy soil tomorrow (even if it clears), so I may have to wait for another weekend.

Given that I'm limited to poking in a bulb here and there, rather than digging a trench and filling it, I bought a bulb augur that you can use as a drill bit.  I'm looking forward to trying it out.

I have garlic greens popping up since planting them a month ago.  I still have lots of cloves to plant, but I'm glad to see that those I planted did so well already.  

I pulled out a few of the tomato plants that are done producing and clipped a few of the tomatoes that are just beginning to ripen. (I'll finish them on a windowsill.)  I still have three tomatoes left on the vine that haven't started ripening yet.

This past week my asters, perennial mums, sweet autumn clematis and Joe Pye weed have all opened, and my annuals haven't bitten the dust yet, so there is still lots of color in my garden. Especially beautiful is the brilliant red foliage on my blueberry bushes.

I just bought a couple of discount blackberry bushes and am considering where to put them. They need full sun, so my choices are limited.  Since they can take over spaces, I don't want to put them in my regular garden.  Perhaps in the parking strip or alongside the back fence will have to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

no frost

My tomatoes and peppers survived the cold -- it doesn't look like I got a frost here, but it was close.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Frost on the way?

We have a frost warning this evening, so I covered my tomatoes and peppers with my portable cold-frames.  I just harvested my first cucumber today and my first two tomatoes in the past two days, so  I hope I can extend their season a bit.  I only have maybe three more cukes on the vine, and four more tomatoes, but I've waited so long for them I'd hate to lose them now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Drought; suprise tomatoes

I've been watering regularly this past week, not just the new perennials I've planted this year, but just about everything -- we've gone from a wet early summer to a drought this past month.  I almost lost my new fothergilla (since recovered) and a new hydrangea due to the last of moisture.  I also want to drain my rain barrels before winter, so all the watering hasn't added anything to my water bills.  I still have lots in bloom, both perennials and annuals, and I want them to last as long as possible.

I'm about to pick the first of my tomatoes, as they are starting to ripen.  I also found a cherry tomato plant in my front garden where I did not expect it.  If I recall, I lost track of some of my spring seedlings, and may have planted a tomato plant where I thought I was planting a hollyhock.  It got lost amid the catnip and roses and obedient plant, but this morning, lo and behold, I saw some cherry tomatoes on it.  Free food!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

cold frame; moving things around; signs of fall

I finally finished putting together the cold frame I received a while back from Charley's Greenhouse. 

I'll put it over my new planter when the weather gets a little colder.  (In the meantime, I may cover my peppers and/or tomatoes for the next few weeks to get a little more life out of them.)

I also moved some plants around:  I put my chives (which I never harvest, for some reason) in the parking strip, and bookended the parking strip with some mums that I rescued from the compost pile at Skillin's.  They'll only last a few more days, but I'll take 'em.

My mustard has sprouted in my new planter, and the spinach and carrots should be out in the next few days.

Signs of Fall:  my New England asters have opened, the New York ones not yet (or vice versa, I can't remember which are which).  I've seen some of my muscari (grape hyacinth) sprouting, as they tend to do in the fall (though no flowers).  And my perennial mums have formed buds, as has my sweet autumn clematis .

Other than that, I'm just watching my summer garden slowly fade.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

new planter

I got to spend most of this beautiful day today building a new planter aside my deck (a companion to the other I built earlier this summer).  This planter gets more sun than the other (it's right next to the raised bed), so I've decided to use it for growing vegetables.  It's a good 30 square feet, so there's room to plant a lot.  After building it and filling it with soil (and composted cow manure), I sowed carrots, spinach, and mustard.  It's a great time to plant those crops, and if it looks like we'll get an early frost, I'll cover them.  Recently I purchased a small greenhouse (3 ft deep by 5 ft wide by 3 ft tall), and it'll fit nicely over the planter, giving me an easy means to cover my crops and grow food until -- well, we'll see:  I'm hoping at least til Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cutting things back, starting things anew

I got to spend a good hour this evening in the gardening, doing some general cleaning up, as well as planting some seed starts.

I cut back all my yarrow, whose heads were quite an unsightly brownish-black.  A few have rebloomed, so I kept those, but I cut the rest back to their basal foliage so that it now looks like I have a smooth field of ferns.

The seedlings I started a month or so ago were large enough to put out into the garden, so I planted some echinacea, canterbury bells and columbine into the main garden, and in the parking strip planted scabiosa, asclepius, and jupiter's beard.  Though I prefer watering in the morning, I then watered everything in.  

I love this temperate weather!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

photo op; hydrangeas; pulling out plants

I was visited this morning by a new friend, Anna, a photographer, who took pictures of Sage and me in the garden for a show she is putting together (her website doesn't have anything up yet about the project, but she has some other fine projects there).  Sage had a great time playing  Easter egg hunt among the flowers (a ruse so that Anna could take photos), and I hope she got some great shots.  Since it's moving time in my garden, I was happy to bequeath my loosestrife and some of my (dis-)obedient plant to her, as they tend to take over a garden.  The obedient plant is especially beautiful, but very aggressive.

In place of the loosestrife I planted one of the two hydrangeas I picked up the other day, and put the other symmetrically balanced at the other end of the garden.  One will get more sun than the other, so I'll see how they comparatively do.

One plant I'll be pulling out soon is my grapevine, as it's too much of a japanese beetle magnet, and I don't want to be spraying my garden that often to control them, even if the spray was organic.  It's not worth the effort, and the squirrels and/or chipmunks ate the grapes anyway.  I'll probably replace it with some clematis.

Finally, in anticipation of this weekend's rain I installed the second of my two rain barrels.  It's a piece of cake once you know what you're doing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Staking tomatoes; transplanting

I finally got around to staking my tomatoes today, if you can imagine that.  They look good and healthy, but I have perhaps only three tomatoes each on my five plants, so I'm not looking forward to a great yield this year.  The plants are short, due to the poor weather earlier this summer, so they have only needed staking now that the tomatoes are putting on bulk.

I pulled the last of my carrots from the raised bed, though I have more seedlings shooting up already for my fall crop.  My daughter and her neighborhood friend Bella enjoyed some fresh treats while blowing bubbles on the front porch.

I also took advantage of the relatively pleasant evening to move some plants around:  I'm making more of my parking strip (it's mostly white yarrow, which is beautiful for a short period of time, then dull when it fades) by inter-planting some other perennials.  Lately I've put in some catmint, bee balm, coreopsis (now that I know what it is) and today moved my gaillardia there.  They had been lost behind the coneflowers and rudbeckia, and as re-bloomers, they should shine in their more prominent space, especially now that the yarrow is gone.

While I was in the transplanting mood, I moved around a foxglove, two stella d'oro's (also hidden by the rudbeckia) and a butterfly bush.

After all that moving, I watered everything in -- with water from my rain barrel!  Thank you, Portland Water District, for saving me money.

Speaking of butterfly bushes, this afternoon my daughter and I watched a butterfly go round and round one flower head of the very tall butterfly bush right outside our living room window.  'Twas a beautiful sight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rain Barrel installed; discount plants

I finally got the first of my rain barrels installed this evening (in the rain).  Let's hope it's worth it.  

This is the time of year for discounted plants.  Skillin's is having a great sale, and I just picked up some clearance plants from Lowe's (where I usually don't buy my plants, but I had to pick up some gutter hardware):  some nikko blue hydrangeas (with lots of fungus and a few flower buds), and three huge bee balms, for $3.99 each.  I'll plant them in the near future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurricane Bill, rain barrel, trellis, fothergilla, veggies, blog followers

I write this just as the tail end of hurricane Bill abates after dousing us with heavy rain this evening.  Just in time, I installed the first of my rain barrels this afternoon (after purchasing them this Spring!), only to watch the downspout drop off and the run-off flood a corner of my garden.  I'll have to re-attach it with a stronger clamp.

As I've mentioned, to hide the rain barrel (it's near the front of the house), I purchased a nice trellis from Skillin's (50% off!) and re-installed it today, fitting it to properly hide the barrel.  I have a few clematis running up it, though they are meager plants and probably won't hide the rain barrel for at least a year.  I do have a Summer Sweet (clethra) nearby, and that covers some of the view of the rain barrel.  It's just beginning to bloom, and smelled lovely as I worked in that area today.

I also put in some lavender that I had started from seed a few weeks back.

The rain has been welcome, as I've resorted to watering this past few weeks.  My new fothergilla (purchased and planted on Father's Day) has been the hardest hit by the August drought, and is showing quite a bit of leaf browning and curling.  I'm hoping the plant survives (it still looks lively in spots), and I've taken care to water it frequently since noticing the leaf curl.

I pulled more carrots today, some of them quite big.  My habit, however, is not to thin the initial seeding, and settle for smaller but more numerous carrots.  Why?  Because my daughter loves baby carrots as a snack.  (The so-called baby carrots you buy in the store are actually milled down from full-size.)

My daikon radish have sprouted and are doing nicely, and my pole beans sure know how to climb, having found my trellis without even me training them in that direction.  I have a number of nicely-sized tomatoes on my plants.  Let's hope they ripen before the first frost.  (No late blight yet.)

I had the pleasure this week of meeting two of my blog followers this week:  Anna, who came by to take some pictures of my daughter in the garden (though Sage wasn't cooperating, and Anna went home without even taking her lens cap off); and "BG" at Skillin's yesterday.  It has been nice to meet you both.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A new book (to me)

I finally broke down and bought Barbara Damrosch's The Garden Primer, which is an excellent book that I've consulted frequently while working at Skillin's, and finally decided to have for my own.  She's a Maine author, so she knows Maine gardening.   It's also 100% organic.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More potatoes

I pulled up all my lettuce yesterday, and my potatoes today:  way early for my potatoes, but my daughter is on a new-potato fix, so I decided to harvest them all.  Some good-sized reds and yukon golds.  They were delicious.

My daughter is enjoying the fruits of our garden: she's been eating fresh peaches, carrots, lettuce, and beets. Last night Sage chowed down on freshly-picked lettuce as a snack before bed. What four-year-old does that?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It figures:  it rains heavily today, the day after I finally break down and water the garden (after a few weeks of no rain, but considering all the rain we had before that, I forwent, if that's a word).

I finally noticed some tomatoes on my tomato plants yesterday, as well as some more blossoms.  I have indeterminate ones, so they tend to bloom and fruit later anyway (as is the case with most heirloom varieties, which is what I planted).  No sign of late blight in my garden, probably because I don't know anyone in my urban-ish neighborhood who is veggie gardening, and so I haven't caught anyone else's spores.  Yet.

My pole beans are up, about an inch.  Spinach just poking through.

I have to plant some turnips in my raised bed soon.  Sage discovered she loved them yesterday evening, devouring them for a night-time snack, pretending to be a bunny.  (What four-year-old eats turnips for a snack?)

I bought and "planted" a small trellis yesterday to hide the rain barrel that I have yet to install.  It's a "one of these days..." project.  I plan to grow a clematis or two up it, even if it's in partial shade.  I may not get the best blooms, but I'll mostly grow it for the foliage anyway, and the blooms will be a pleasant extra.

I have a number of surprises in my garden this year:  lychnis that I forgot I had planted (from seed), some sunflowers that must have fallen from a bird feeder, and a few other plants that jumped from their original location.

The problem of over-abundance:  I now have ox-eye daisy seedlings all over the garden, which is soon going to be quite the nuisance.  I also plan on cutting back or eliminating my obedient plant (a misnomer if there ever was one) and some loosestrife.

Today's gardening embarrassment:  I finally figured out what my mystery flower was from a few weeks ago:  a coreopsis.  It's one of those plants I don't know well, despite its common nature.  I only realized it when I saw some other ones in bloom at Skillins.  Oops.

I've been filling out my parking strip with more variety, since it's mostly yarrow -- which is beautiful when it's in bloom, but then turns brown and unattractive.  I now have more coreopsis, a few nepetas, and some shasta daisies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fall planting

This past weekend I ripped out the remains of my sugar snap peas, they being exhausted and dessicated.  Today in their place I planted some pole beans and (nearby) some spinach seeds, hoping for a fall crop of each.  After my lettuce bolts, and after I harvest my carrots and beets and lettuce, I'll replace those as well with new seed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

new potatoes

I write this with a plate of new potatoes, just fried in garlic, sitting in front of me.  Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what was in the ground, and out popped two golf-ball sized and one baseball-sized potato.  They are Yukon Gold, planted April 23 -- three months and one week ago.  Yum, they are good!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weeding, Planting, Moving, Enjoying

In between the morning rain and the evening rain, I got the chance to do some cleaning up and planting this afternoon.  

In a case of "do as I say, not as I do," I moved a balloon flower and a veronica spicata from locations hidden under over-grown flowers (a butterfly bush and some bee balm, respectively) into other parts of the garden where they'd be more prominent.  Yes, they were in bloom, which is the worst time to transplant, so I hope I haven't done any long-term damage.

I cut back all of my baptisia, which has pretty foliage in its own right, but droops over everything nearby.  It was shading out my emerging gladiolas.

I sewed some more corn poppies in hopes for a late-summer bloom.  I also started some purple coneflower in flats from seed.  (The echinacea I have now is off-white, and it looks very pale next to my black-eyed susans.)

With plants that were going to be discarded anyway, I cleaned up and planted what I could of some verbena and petunias, filling empty spaces in my garden.

I did a ton of weeding.  All this rain has been great for the grass that just won't go away from my front yard.  (I'm the only one in my neighborhood who considers grass a weed.)

And now some pix:  my gladiolas are just starting to open, and my daylilies had their best day yet.

Friday, July 24, 2009


The first of my gladiolas opened  today  (despite the heavy  downpour).  When I can get out there, I'll take a photo.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Plant names

Among other things, my gayfeather are blooming.  Gayfeather, you say?  Yes, that's the now-fading name for liatris.  Probably some product managers got worried about the marketing appeal of the name gayfeather and decided its botanical name was more appealing.  (As if "liatris" is an appealing name -- sounds like a gastro-intestinal disorder.)  I no longer see plant labels with "gayfeather" on them.

Working at a garden center, I'm amused by all the ridiculous names of plants, especially the hybrids.  My favorites are the Anglophilic/aristocratic-sounding ones:  princess this and duchess of so-and-so that.  Of course, like aristocracy horticulture is all about "good breeding," though quite unlike aristocracy, horticulture advances by hybridization.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disappearing Grapes

When I left for Alaska, there were nice bunches of Edelweiss grapes on my grapevine.  When I returned, there were no signs of them.  No clue.  Birds?  Wildlife?  Neighbors?  The mail carrier?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid-July photos

As promised, some photos (good and bad) of my garden in mid-July.My sugar-snap peas, eaten up by who-knows-what (happened while I was on vacation).

Coneflowers, Gaillardia and Ratibida



Baby's Breath, Allium Moly, and Liatris, with Nicotiana in the background

Yarrow in the parking strip (with a few daylilies in the background).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back from Vacation

Three days ago I got back from a two-week vacation (to Alaska), and my garden reflected the neglect.  Fortunately, we got lots of rain (so I heard), so things seemed to have survived well enough (more on that later), but I came home to a radically different garden than the one I left.  After two days of recovery, I was able to get into the garden this afternoon.  In short, things were either weedy, eaten up, and newly in bloom.    

Bloom report:
Here's what I found in bloom:

Daylilies, one corn poppy, allium sphaerocephalon, baby's breath, foxglove, nicotiana, columbine, gaillardia, butterfly bush, rudbeckia, yarrow, coneflower, lobelia, snapdragons, california poppies, white phlox, a few cosmos, lupine, russian sage, flax, petunias, impatiens, salvia, loosestrife, veronica, campanula glomerata, some liatris.  

Harvest time:
My blueberries were ripe, and we feasted on those.  My lettuce is still prolific, and my daughter ended up eating mostly that for breakfast yesterday.

The Japanese beetles are out, and aphids chewed up much of my snap peas, so this evening I sprayed a pyrethrum-based spray on all my veggies and fruits (and my one or two hollyhocks).  Let's hope that does the trick.

I pulled out the last of my daffodil foliage and my allium bulgaricum, and cut back my very bushy baptisia and my ox-eye daisies, which sent their seeds everywhere as I pruned.

I assessed where I needed to fill in some holes in the garden, and planted some annuals:   more nicotiana, some petunias, calibrachoa (superbells), cosmos, and osteospermum.  I watered all the new plantings with a diluted seaweed solution.

General maintenance:
I moved around a few daylilies, strawberries, and one liatris, to put in a new stone-gravel path around the back of my garden, which was hard to get to.  I also had to stake a few tall plants and tie my grape vine up to its post, as it had fallen off.

I'll post some new photos in the next day or  two when I get a chance.

Monday, June 29, 2009


While dumping out some kitchen scraps into my compost bin, I noticed dozens of slugs munching on my decaying tulip leaves.  Huge happy ones.  I'm just glad they were happy there and not in my raised bed or my flower beds.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fothergilla, Snap Peas, Starting new seeds

It was nice to be able to get outside into the garden the last two days, though it looks like more rain is forecast for this weekend.  I finally had the opportunity to plant the fothergilla that I got for Father's Day, thanks to my generous mother-in-law.   

With all the rain, this is starting out to be a good year for lettuce and (so far) not so good for my warm-weather crops (tomatoes, cukes, peppers, squashes).  But Sage and I found about 10 sugar snap peas ready to harvest yesterday, and Sage ate them without them greedily.  

Assessing the weak points of my garden, I started some more perennials from seed, most of it leftover seed I didn't start this winter:  oriental poppies, columbines, shasta daisies (the ones in the garden never came up), verbena, verbascum, foxglove, and chocolate flower.  They are in flats in the back yard.

I pulled out the spinach from my raised bed:  it had stopped producing, and had bolted (flowered).

Speaking of the raised bed:  another of its benefits is that it hasn't been attacked by slugs, which, given all the rain, have been prolific this year.

New openings:  gaillardia, roses, helenium, tansy (I like the photo below of the tansy blooming right next to my ox-eye daisies), and one unidentified flower blooming where I don't remember planting it (see photo below).  I'll have to look it up in my Taylor's Guide to figure it out, but feel free to identify it in the comments.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daylilies, California poppies, rain damage assessment

Southern Maine gardens took a beating over the last few days, with 1-2 inches of rain on Friday.  Today I assessed the damage, and don't feel too bad.  In fact, my garden has transformed itself from predominantly blues and purples to an abundance of yellows, thanks to daylilies and California poppies opening.  Here are some photos from this morning:

One of my two deck planters, with impatiens and sweet alyssum.
The impatiens have loved the rain.

My honeysuckle

My foxglove are still blooming. Unlike my usual habits, I bought these in bloom for a baby shower a month ago, and they've lasted quite well.

The first of my daylilies opened two days ago.
Now I have about a dozen in bloom.

My ox-eye daisies have mostly flopped over.
Here they are growing among "May Night" sage.

My niobe (I think) clematis has opened, though with only two flowers on it.  
(It's only two years old.)

My favorites:  California poppies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer signs; Spring cleanup

My first daylily opened:  a reblooming Stella d'Oro.  It's the first sign that summer is on its way.  I'm looking forward to a full display of them, since I have dozens of daylilies in the garden.

Ringing out the old, I pulled up almost all of my tulips and hyacinths, as they have yellowed and flopped.  It added a ton of green matter to my compost bin!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rain; annual plantings; roses!

Locals know that Portland got heavy rain this morning.  It wreaked havoc on some of my taller plants:  my oriental poppies lost their petals, and both my ox-eye daisies and hesperis flopped a bit.

It was clear by afternoon, so in the evening I was able to plant some annuals in spots where I realized I needed them:  I planted low-growing petunias in a ring around my peach tree, taller white nicotiana around my cherry tree, state fair zinnias near the front of the garden, and rocket snapdragons where I pulled up my lilies.

I saw the first flower buds on my roses, as well as on my niobe clematis, and little peppers on my pepper plants.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Holes in the garden; general update

I've been busy in the garden, but haven't had time to post.

Now's about the time I realize where the summer gaps are in my garden, so I've been putting down some seeds in various places, including:  verbascum (I have a few already, but they are hidden among my rose bushes), Pacific Giant delphiniums (which I grew a few years ago, and loved, but they are tough to keep), more oriental poppies (Brilliant Red), cleome (Fountain Blend), scarlet flax (amid my blue flax), more columbine (McKana's Giant), and Pastel Sunset zinnias.  I also added some purple nicotiana to a corner of the garden, where my hollyhocks will take a while to establish.

On the veggie front:  my peppers and sugar snap peas have bloomed, as has the mustard in my mesclun mix.  Indeed, my daughter Sage loved the mustard, and ate most of it, as well as much of the rest of the lettuces I harvested last week.  I clipped lots of spinach too.  I put some basil into my slow-growing basil pot.  A number of asparagus have come up, so I covered them with soil, all but the tips.  I also hilled my potatoes a little more.  My cantaloupe don't get enough sun, and are on their last legs.  I guessed as much when I planted them, but I've run out of sunny spots.

In the last few days, I've done some other maintenance.  I pinched back my asters so that they don't outgrow my picket fence (they were ungainly last year).  I moved my one hydrangea to a sunnier spot, since though it looked healthy it was getting shaded out by my butterfly bush and baptisia.  I divided some of my creeping phlox, now that they're done blooming.  And I had to move one of my butterfly bushes to extend my pea-gravel path around the garden.  Its leaves flopped, but I've given all the above good doses of seaweed fertilizer (Neptune's Harvest, rich in phosphate) to promote root growth.

Some pix:

My Siberian and Dutch irises are both blooming wonderfully.  My Dutch ones are in the parking strip (verge, esplanade, whatever you call the strip between the sidewalk and the street), and are a mix of blues and yellows.

I'm really enjoying the Allium bulgaricum which I planted for the first time last fall.  I'll have to order more.The tallest of my Dame's Rocket (hesperis) to open.  I started a lot from direct seeding this year, so I should see a lot next year, as many have established themselves.

Glad the rain is coming!  My garden sorely needs a good soak.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oriental Poppies

I woke up this morning to find that the first of my oriental poppies had opened, which is always a wonderful sight.  My sage and verbascum have also opened, as has the first of my siberian irises.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bloom Update

In bloom today:  allium, baby's breath (annual), baptisia, chives, columbine, creeping phlox (barely), dianthus, digitalis, flax, galanthus, hesperis, iberis, impatiens, irises, lilac, lobelia, lunaria, lupine, ox-eye daisies, pansies, ratibida, salvia, solomon's seal, Spanish bluebells, sweet alyssum, and zinnias.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ox-eye Daisies, Fruits' First Appearance

My Siberian irises are about to open.  As you can see, my ox-eye daisies are in full bloom.

I've noticed a lot of fruit on my various fruit-bearing plants:  peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes, though either it's too early to tell about cherries, I don't know what to look for, or there won't be any fruit this year.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Impatiens, Pea Gravel

This evening, after a busy two days at Skillin's, I had a few moments to garden:  I put four flats of impatiens in around my new summersweet, where the forsythia used to be.  I also pulled out my flagstones to make my garden path all pea gravel, so that it's a bit more child-friendly, as Sage and the neighborhood kids sometimes like to walk through my garden, but couldn't take steps big enough to reach each flagstone.

Yesterday Sage and I picked up our two rain barrels from the Portland Water District.  Now I need to install them and figure out to camouflage the one in the front.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain

After three days of rain, I was able to get into the garden again this evening to rescue two of my irises, which had fallen over, and plant a few foxglove and oriental poppies that I bought at Skillin's.  Tomorrow, I get to pick up the two rain barrels I ordered from the city water department -- too late to collect all this rain, of course, but it'll hopefully be a good investment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lupine, Chores

Nothing prettier in Maine than lupine in bloom.

Today I watered everything, cut off all the dead tulip heads and my lily-leaf-beetle-infested lilies.  All the blooms have blown off my muscari.  Some of my sunflower seeds have sprouted.  And one of the hesperis has opened.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vacation Update

I got back from Cambridge this afternoon to find my garden lush but dry.  I did some immediate watering of my whole garden.  After dinner, I did some accounting:

  • Veggie growth:  my potatoes have finally surfaced.  Soon enough, I will hill them to encourage them to produce more potatoes.  Indeed, my entire raised bed looked healthy, with everything seemingly about an inch taller.  (When I watered it before I left, I added some seaweed fertilizer to my watering can.)
  • Flower growth:  baptisia are about three feet tall; summersweet seems to have survived the transplant; 1 hesperis (dame's rocket) about 18 inches tall, others about a foot; grape leaves look open and full; roses look healthy and green; clematis are thriving.
  • In bloom:  columbine, some late snowdrops (or something), spanish bluebells, ratibida, a few irises (one which broke), one lupine, flax, and speedwell.
  • Producing flowers:  salvias, oriental poppies, chives, yarrow, and verbascum.
  • Gone by:  strawberries (planted last year); all my tulips have lost their lustre, though they have all turned a deep rich purple that's a very attractive death.
  • Where'd they go?  So far, no sign of my shasta daisies, and one of my russian sages failed to produce much growth this year.  The shasta daisies are especially confusing.
  • Damn!  Got my first mosquito bite of the year.  Already!?!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Frost, Now Heat

Well, all my plants survived the near-frost of a few days ago.  Now the question is, will they survive the heat?  I'm going away for a few days, so early this morning I watered everything thoroughly.

Since I've cut out my forsythia, I now have more room to play with, so yesterday I laid down some new soil in front of my garden bench, moved my overcrowded dianthus into it, then put in some (annual) baby's breath seedlings and some sunflower seeds.  We'll see what survives.

This morning, realizing my raised bed wasn't getting full sun, now that my trees have leafed out, I trimmed back a few maple branches hanging over it.

Yesterday, I also bought five new flagstones to mark the path I usually take between all my perennials.  Rather than just compacting the ground there, I'll soon make it look like a real path by laying down some pea gravel between the flagstones.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SummerSweet, Lamium, Frost

Sage and I went to Skillin's today and picked up a few plants:  some lobelia, sweet alyssum and Skillin's Special tomatoes that I'm putting in the cold frame overnight (to protect from any potential frost), a few lamium (dead nettle) for my shade planter, and one lunaria (money plant) from my front yard. (I have a number of money plants growing, but nothing about to flower, so I wanted some color in that spot).  I also got a Summer Sweet bush (clethra) and this evening (until it was getting too dark to work outside) ripped out my ugly forsythia and put the Summer Sweet more or less in the same spot.  It's a much nicer plant, should behave a little better, and will provide great late summer fragrance and attract pollinators.

I'm doing nothing special for the potential frost tonight (other than what I mentioned above).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Moving Stuff Around

Having cut back my forsythia the other day, I was able to move my garden bench back a few feet, which freed up some room to plant some short (2 foot) cosmos (seeds) in front of it.  I also moved to my shade planter two lamiums that used to be under the bench.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hoping for No Frost

Despite the advice I give customers at Skillin's, I'm gambling that there's not going to be any frost from here on out, so I put out some of my tender annuals.  I installed two window boxes on the sides of my picket fence (as shown), which are filled with cascading lobelia, sweet peas, and morning glories, the latter two of which will hopefully run along the fence and make a nice late-summer bloom.

Evening Post-Script:  upon Mike Skillin's advice (see comments), I put in my cukes, cantelope, zinnias, hibiscus, iberis (candy tuft), campanula chimney, and more snapdragons.

Other evening observations:  my two clematis (one paniculata and the other a niobe) have both grown at least a foot.  My lilacs are starting to open, and I can smell the first of their wonderful scents.  The leaves of my new grape vine are just starting to unfurl as well.

I also put in some nicotiana and bachelor buttons, and threw down some corn poppy seeds.

My irises are about ready to open.  A number of the best ones came with the house, so I take no credit for them.  Probably this year, I'll divide them and spread them around, as they are getting somewhat crowded.

My poeticus narcissus (all three of them) are open.  They aren't in the sunniest spot, but they add a nice touch alongside the front steps.

Finally, a nice shot of red tulips growing out of my creeping phlox and through my roses.  The color contrasts are wonderful (at least in real life).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Today Sage and I hacked back at our forsythia bush, which I had pruned last fall.  It's a pitiful sight, and I'm eager to get rid of the whole thing.  It was nice to clear up some space, for now there is room (and more light) for more plantings.  I'm thinking of replacing the whole thing with some type of shrub or dwarf tree, but don't know what yet.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Annual Plantings; Transplanting; Harvesting; Growth Update; Nuisances

Annual plantings:

  • nicotiana (in my new planter)
  • ten strawberry plants that I finally got from Pinetree (around the grape vine)
  • nasturtiums (that should grow up my lilacs, rose bushes, grape vine, and peach tree)
  • black-eyed susan vine (that should grow up my the length of my picket fence)

Transplanting:  I moved a tricyrtis (toad lilly) from a shady corner of my front yard into my new planter.

Harvesting:  In keeping with yesterday, Sage ate lettuce straight from the raised bed.

Growth update:  

  • Most of the hollyhocks that I put in on 4/28 seem to have survived.  
  • My cherry tree is blossoming, though it's certainly not as prolific as a mature tree, or especially an ornamental one.  
  • My irises have formed flower heads.
  • The Joe-Pye Weed that I moved on 4/28 away from my new cherry tree has recovered.
  • The species tulips are just about to open, though there are fewer of them than I expected.
  • The gladiolas I planted on 4/9 are now about four inches high.
  • The liriope (lilyturf) are re-shooting.
  • To my surprise, my buddleia (butterfly bush) have made it through the winter and are full of green leaves.
  • I had to stake my first plant of the season, an allium that kept falling over.  (It may have snapped its stem.)
  • The columbines are about to open.
  • I have liatris coming up all over the garden; it's now about four inches tall.

Nuisances:  I am finding more grubs this year than last, so I guess it's time to re-apply the Milky Spore.  And there are little oak shoots all over the place still that I keep digging out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First Fruits of our Labors

Today Sage harvested and ate the first fruits (well, vegetables) of our labors:  some spinach in our raised bed.  She loved it, and I had to stop her from eating the whole crop.

We also moved my astilbe from the front yard into the new planter that I just built.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shear Magic

This morning I cut back the death on my still-surviving hydrangea (which is regenerating itself from its roots after I cut it back hard late last summer).  I also trimmed some death from my shrub roses, and cut off the mushy blooms from my hyacinths.  I was also pleased to notice that a number of the pansies that I planted last fall have rebloomed this spring.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Joys of Spring

I love this time of year, when every time I go out to the garden there's something new emerging from the ground, or promising to bloom.  My lilacs have formed nice deep-purple buds, my ox-eye daisies have dozens of little buds on them, and I can see purple peaking out of the heads of my allium (flowering onions).  The first of my species tulips have formed their flower heads, and my dianthus, russian sage, phlox, daylilies, butterfly bush, baptisia, and baby's breath are all starting to become lush.  My recently-transplanted solomon's seal (moved so I could build a potato bed in my back yard) has shot up and is about to open.  And little lupines are popping up all over the place where I planted seeds a few weeks ago.

I put out some of my seedlings into my coldframe, including nicotiana, iberis, anemone, alyssum, dianthus, sweet peas, thunbergia, bachelor buttons, and nasturtiums.  I'm still holding off on putting out some of my more tender annuals until they are ready to be put out into my cold frame. (With all this predicted rain, I'm waiting for some warmer days.)

I also put out my second flat of brussel sprouts, the first doing quite well.

After the last few days of rain, it was nice to go out this sunny morning and survey the new growth.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A new planter

I built a new 12' x 2' planter in my back yard, alongside my deck, which gets mostly shade, so I quickly planted some shade-tolerant perennials: heuchera, foxglove, geraniums, sweet woodruff, and ligularia.  The planter is filled with compost (home-grown), composted cow manure, some lobster compost, a big bag of last year's oak leaves, and many bags of topsoil, all blended in with a pitchfork.  I plan on adding some annuals once there's no danger of frost.  After that, I'll put on a mulch.  The wood is 2" x 6" cedar, so it should last a while.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A new cherry; bloomings and fadings

I planted a new cherry tree where I pulled out my previous one, replacing a dwarf tree (North Star) with a sweeter self-pollinator (Lapin).   

My peach tree is now beginning to flower, as is my creeping phlox.  

I also planted asparagus plants (two-year-old bare root plants).  I have never liked asparagus (can't even stand the smell of them cooking), but my wife and daughter love them, so in they go. My hope is that fresh asparagus will taste and smell differently from the store-bought kind.

My cucumbers and cantelope have germinated in the basement.  It'll be another month before they go out.

Most of my daffodils have gone by, except for my narcissus poeticus in a somewhat shadier bed.  They haven't even opened yet.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tulip heaven; cherry hell

This morning was glorious:  my tulips are in full bloom, most of my daffodils are still open, and after a nice overnight rain, the garden looked wonderful.Unfortunately, I discovered yesterday evening that my North Star cherry is "bleeding," or gumming.The causes can be many, including an infection, which to me seems most likely, since three of its branches have failed to produce leaves.  (Read more here.)  I only recently planted the thing, so I'll be bringing it back for a replacement.

For my gardening friend KCB, here's a picture of some lupine after last night's rain.