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.