Friday, May 29, 2015


Emma nurse dog
It has been a week since ankle replacement. I am hopping around the house with an aluminum walker. I have only made it outside to the porch twice, to catch some sun and watch the hummingbirds. Mostly, I have been reading and napping.

Two books by Susan Meissner have been terrific recuperation reads, A Fall of Marigolds, see review link here-
 and then, Secrets of a Charmed Life, reviewed here-  Both books are in paperback and explore historical events, Ellis Island, 9/11 and the London Blitz, while intertwining a believable, well-written storyline in roughly 370 pages.

Weather has been a bit hot and steamy, but there have been frequent thunderstorms to keep the gardens growing. I am a bit antsy not being able to putter in the garden, but from my viewpoint the plants are doing well on their own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Veg garden is in

Well, this is it... the night before ankle replacement surgery. I got most of my "to do" list done. The dogs have gotten their shots and the raised bed gardens are now completely planted! I put in the pre-soaked bean seeds this evening.

The first bed on the left is herbs: Thai basil, Genovese basil, rosemary and cilantro. The middle bed has two red cherry tomato plants and one heirloom yellow pear patio tomato. The far bed near the street, has two self seeded heirloom tomatoes from last year (German pinks I think), the bean seeds and a parsley plant. The bed closest to the driveway (the back of the 'E' bed layout) has three heirloom zucchini squash, and three pepper plants of varying heat, jalapeno to sweet. All the dirt has been turned over and augmented with seaweed compost and topsoil. I had some crushed eggshells left over from last year, so the tomato plants got a healthy dose of calcium before these rainy days.

We have been having unusually cold weather, it is 47F/8C tonight, and there has been a constant drizzle today. Emma and Wendy are wearing their winter coats again. They look pretty adorable and Wendy is definitely not camera shy. Anyway, I'm signing off until next week when I have recovered from post-op pain & adjusted to my non-ambulatory status.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Porch Planter 2015

Last post, I mentioned that I had gotten the porch planter re-planted. This job has also been checked off my pre-surgery "to do" list utilizing my daughter's excellent digging assistance. This stone planter is an annual challenge to beautify, because #1 it is so obvious at the front of the house and #2 it gets variable light. See last year's post here to get a run down of those challenges. I have seriously considered simply filling this blasted planter with rock and calling it a zen garden!

Anyway, the Celadine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) that is planted at the shady end of the planter is doing quite well. This year it had lots of yellow flowers and it has doubled in size... it took a bit of research, but when a plant is placed in the right spot, meaning light and soil requirements, it really pays off.  Last years caladiums were a terrific color boost, so I definitely wanted to repeat them. While I liked the leafy Gryphon begonias planted last year, there were none available at my local plant stores this season.

Since the Celadine Poppy is a perennial, I thought I would like the convenience of repeat performers throughout this site. I chose Coral Bells (Heuchera) to experiment with, since they tolerate partial to full sun, and maintain a tidy mounding culture producing tiny pink or red bell shaped flowers on delicate stalks. This is truly an experiment as I have killed at least four in the yard gardens in past years. A perfect example of disregarding light and soil requirements, resulting in plant sacrifices, never a pretty outcome. So fingers crossed this will be a good fit.

I have never fully explored to the bottom of this planter, it is stone/cement and about 2-1/2 feet deep. I suspect it drains from the bottom because it never becomes a pool after rainstorms. I think the voles can access it as well, from the top or ?underground, because there are tunnels/holes after the winter. Occasionally, there are massive tiny brown ant colonies, as well as a healthy pill bug population. Last year, I turned over the soil and added compost and I think disturbing the soil reduced the ant population and the extra nutrients really benefited the plants. So going on last season's success, I added I bag of compost along with one bag of topsoil, and Juli dug it in.

The final two feet of this planter are in full sun by mid summer, so last year I stuck a mini gnome statue there. Juli loves lilies and since she did the digging, she got a this piece of garden. I have been reluctant to incorporate Asiatic lilies into the yard gardens as they are virus carriers, but this spot is certainly separate and contained. She planted a lovely Stargazer Lily whose blooms are a fragrant delight while sitting on the porch. Altogether, this planter project has turned out even better than last year! Thanks to my kids for their generous help and creative gardening suggestions!!

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Rose Arbor

I am anxiously trying to complete an extensive "to do" list before I am off my feet, post-op ankle surgery. The raised beds are planted with this years veg, the porch planter bed is done, all the balloon flowers are in the ground and I got a bag of gladiola bulbs planted. The irises are blooming and smell wonderful especially at night. On Mother's Day weekend I spotted an early female hummingbird, so I hung up 3 feeders with homemade syrup. The finch feeder sock of thistle seed is up and the Red-Headed finch pairs have been frequent visitors. Today, I saw the first Goldfinch of the season, snacking upside-down on the sock too!

One big project I wanted to complete was to clear out the weedy and crowded plant space in front of the porch planter. Two rogue butterfly bushes had started to grow there, and the one mugo pine was the main vole refuge, as well as having a sawfly infestation; all were slated for removal. My daughter dug and hacked out the medium sized butterfly bushes, but my son's brawn and skills with a pick axe were necessary to remove the pine.

Once those view obstructing shrubs were gone, I could address the climbing red rose I had "temporarily" planted there. This site was initially an interim location, because the poor rose wilted in the bare-root plastic packaging when I forgot to plant it promptly. Several years later (oops), I really had to either move it or give it an adequate support system. Laziness wins and I decided to create an arbor from two 10 ft.-1/2 inch  PVC pipes, 4-36inch pieces of re-bar, and some leftover plastic coated dog fence 36x14 inches. The easiest arbor ever!

I pushed the re-bar into the ground and bent the PVC as I placed the pipe over the foot and a half of exposed re-bar. I hand bent the dog fencing over the top of the curved PVC pipes and attached it with zip-ties. Then I pruned, coerced and forced the rose branches over the arbor and onto the dog fencing; I used zip-ties to affix the rose to the arbor. It took a couple weeks for the rose to recover, but WOW, look at the buds and blooms!

My son wanted a rock and creeping thyme garden, so that is in the works at the base of the arbor. I have to admit the rose looks much happier supported than it did loose. The hummingbirds are also enjoying the feeder I hung from the middle of the arbor. I have one stray branch to secure but it is still a tender new shoot, so I'll wait to zip-tie it to the PVC. The garden tidying continues, but this quick and satisfying chore is done & checked off the "to do" list. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy, happy and Balloons

The last essay of the semester has been submitted!!! I was singing the "happy, happy" song at that moment. My youngest drove me to the local big grocery and we picked up some celebratory sushi for a late lunch. I can't actually dance with joy because of my bum ankle, but I'm dancing on the inside!

We've had two days of heavy rain here, no thunder and no tornadoes. It really has been lovely, I like rain. Grey skies and green foliage, as the garden is loving all this water after a week of sticky 80F/26C temps. The rain barrels are full again too.

I have further celebrated the end of school with a few trips to Lowe's & Home Depot's garden departments. This year Lowe's seems to have the better selection and healthier plants. Kudos to them for stocking Balloon Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorum) at the super reasonable price of $3.98 per six inch pot. I went nuts and bought five! About two or maybe three years ago the voles spent the winter eating the roots of my well established plants, killing them and I have been unable to find any replacements. Plants seem to go out of popularity and with fewer local nurseries, I am stuck shopping at big box stores for the same agri-farm produced selections. Spotting these hearty looking balloon flower plants, was a terrific find. Certainly, when they set those marvelous puffy, blue blooms, they will be immediately snapped up. This photo is from several years ago, when this plant was about three feet tall and loaded with balloons and blooms, pre- vole attack.

Home Depot's garden dept. earns praise for re-ordering the excellent six inch pots of gorgeous caladiums that I have purchased last year and again this year for the front porch planter.  See last years posting here: I brought home several plants for the $3.98 price and plan to combine them with three perennial 2.5 QT pots of Coral Bells (Heuchera) in the planter. The Begonias I companion planted with the caladiums last year don't seem to be available anywhere now. The Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), a Missouri native plant, that is at the shaded end of the planter box has done beautifully, so I am going to try another perennial with the Coral Bells. It is much simpler to fill in the gaps with caladiums than redesign the planter box every year. So tomorrow, I will be having a dirt & fun-filled Mother's Day digging in the yard. Happy Mother's Day to all!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Passing May Day

The semester is almost over! Final exams are this week and I am more than ready to chuck the whole school thing. I won't. This has been such a difficult semester! It is just my frustration from working so hard, and  enduring lots of homework for the "maybe" of a career, on this long, s l o w - p o k e to a degree.

My ankle surgery date is getting closer. I am busy limping around the house and yard trying to get chores done, so there will be an auto-pilot interlude while I am down and out. I am excited that Handyman Todd has gotten the bathroom back together again! Grab bars and hanging a shelf are all that is left to complete the remodel. I am totally loving the bead board, the new vanity, and the delicious paint colors. I kept the old etched glass medicine cabinet that was original to the house, but updated the light fixture to utilize LED bulbs. This new bathroom is a monumental improvement over the original one. It's amazing how spacious this room has become from moving a wall out 12"/30cm!

The garden is starting to green up and set flower buds with the mid 70's heat (24C). This year my columbines are blooming with vigor. I planted a few near the rotting stump under our new gnome a few years ago, but only one survived. I have been shaking seed pods around the gardens for a couple of seasons and this year I discovered a purple and yellow columbine bloom behind the Kerria bush. These columbines seem picky about light, but I think they have started to naturalize. My Nana had a columbine garden that stretched the length of the back of her house, completely filled with these colorful perennials. My few plants are a nod to her memory. I do hope they continue to grow, bloom and adapt to the yard. Simply amazing flowers!