Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Getting the Last Bulbs In the Groud

A final shipment of lily bulbs arrived last week, and I decided to make an area inside the vegetable garden to plant them. Once I sat down to see what bulbs we still needed to plant, I realized I could add some allium and Dutch iris bulbs to the little plot. Although I will definitely cut some blooms, the purpose of planting the lilies in the vegetable garden is to draw pollinators to the plants. 

Hopefully we have better success with this year's lily bulbs than we did last year.

First went the allium bulbs. A mix of 'Gladiator', 'Purple Sensation', and a white allium that I'm not sure of the name of.

The lily bulbs looked very healthy. I planted a tall mix of Oriental lilies including yellow and white Stargazer, a double oriental, as well as some martagon lilies that are not fragrant but that I will want to pick for home.

The lilies mixed in with the allium. Did you know lily bulbs never go dormant? It's important to get them planted as quickly after their arrival as possible so they do not dry out or rot.

I just realized these picture are upside down. Anyhow, I covered the first row of bulbs with a couple of inches of soil and then planted about 40 purple Dutch iris bulbs on top of the allium and lily bulbs. Then I covered the row level with the rest of the garden and gave everything a good drink.

So as of now, the garden has been put to bed. I'm sure I'll see a bag of tulip bulbs on discount and try to shove them into frozen ground in December, but for now I'm done. Now on to cutting back perennials, weeding, and adding leaves to the compost pile.

Monday, November 14, 2016

First Frost

It finally happened about two weeks into November. A freeze hard enough it wiped all of the tender vegetation out. It was time. I picked a ton of green tomatoes, little eggplants, and even the tiniest of tomatillos before the frost came. On Sunday we started cleaning everything up.

The poor zinnias were so gorgeous this year.

There was not a lot of plants left in the garden. But the eggplants, beans, and peppers were finally pulled, as well as the odd borage volunteer that tent to pop up here and there in the garden.

The sage stays pretty green all through the winter.

Pots were emptied. Dirt needs to be dumped and the pots taken in to the garage for the winter.

The Hydrangea Border always looks the worst after the first frost. It reminds me of that horrible spring where we had a late frost and we lost almost every plant.

I love how green the ferns remain.

Another pot that needs dumped and moved inside. I should prune the boxwood before they get wrapped for the winter, as well.

Looking through the redbud leaves at the back path between the Shade Garden and the Vegetable Garden. I really want to rebuild the fence on the Vegetable Garden.

Lastly the glorious red Japanese maple over some evergreen hellebore. And some thistle that needs pulled. Even in the fall, the work is never done.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Fall Color to Brighten the Drab Days

A few weeks ago while I was taking apart planters and potting up begonias to bring inside, it occurred to me that there was no reason to let all of the wonderful coleus that were still thriving on my friend's deck fall victim to frost (and it looks like Friday night is our first good chance). So a few snips here and a few snips there and I had enough for two autumnal arrangements.

Coleus will last a long time in a "floral" arrangement, and sometimes will root in the water. I think they look beautiful on their own, mixing the varieties for contrast and texture. Very little arranging is needed, just make sure you strip off any leaves that will be below the water line. These have been in place for almost two weeks now and they look like I just cut them yesterday.

Remember, if you can, to do a quick water change at least every other day. That's true for any floral arrangement.
The chartreuse and rust colors look great in my Kyoto Green bathroom.

A lustreware creamer is the perfect container for a small arrangement on the kitchen island. All of the yellow ware bowls have come out of hiding for the season. This picture reminds me to check my spices as baking season really starts to ramp up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Planting For Spring

A few weeks ago tulip mania hit, as usual, and I began snapping up whatever tulips I could find. They went on sale. I snatched up even more. Then came the realization that I had no idea where I would plant these since there are so many garden projects happening at once. There are peonies to be moved, some perennials still to be planted, and beds that need to be built up before I plant anything in them again. So basically I'm saying no room for tulips. 

I remembered a blog of Martha's from the spring where she planted a whole garden devoted to nothing but tulips to cut. Then I remembered that after ten years our old Darwin hybrids in the Berry Patch (and former cutting garden) had really petered out this past spring. So combining the two ideas it was decided that all of the tulips, well, almost all, would be planted in the vegetable garden.

Yesterday was the day I got started.

I think I planted just under 400 yesterday afternoon.

It helped that all the beds had been filled with wonderful compost, and cleaned up before that. Planting was really easy.

The beds are 4'x8', so I fit six to eight rows in each bed.

There will be plenty of room between the rows to plant spinach, mesclun, beans, peas, even carrots and beets next year.

In addition to the tulips, I just placed an order for about 40 Oriental lily bulbs. I was going to clump them together where the lemon balm once grew, but I think I might plant them right along the edge of the old raised beds where the newer, 11'x19' bed begins. They will bring pollinators as well as be more cut flowers for me to take inside.

All done for now. These beds are all planted, as well as a long row of mixed colors in the large bed just out of the shot to the left. I want to get more to fill the large bed and really make this a show stopper in the spring. I'm keeping my fingers crossed no chipmunks dig them up.

Speaking of flowers to cut, the little patch of zinnias in the vegetable garden is still thriving. They didn't grow as tall as the ones in the cutting garden, but they still grew better than ever.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Moving the Tropical Plants For the Winter

As if the chill in the air and shorter days weren't hints enough, the two threats of frost made me realize it was time I get my act together and move all of the tropicals in for the winter.

I love both the challenge of growing tropical plants in the north, as well as the exotic addition they bring to the garden. Though the plants spend more time in the "winter garden" than they do at "summer camp", nurturing them and watching them grow all through the summer and learning what they need to survive the winter is, to me, a fascinating process. Though not as major an undertaking as this, the process of prepping, moving, and making everything fit is still a bit labor intensive.

Next I need to move the figs...

Agave, agapanthus, and a few bird of paradise already getting covered in leaves. All of the leaves, spider webs, and any other "hitch hikers" need to be removed before moving into the house.

The agave collection is always growing. These were just two little pups bulled from one of the plants last fall at this time. They already need repotted!

And there are more pups on the way! 

They are beginning to look more like their parent.

These little guys have tight, fleshy leaves that love catching debris.

All cleaned up! The agave at top right is an older plant than the one at top left, but has not been growing well. I might give him a repotting and new dirt and see if that helps. The agave at the bottom of  the picture is brand new and not even out of it's plastic pot. Now I just need to find one of the giant blueish agave americanas to add to the collection.

Before bringing anything inside we also make sure to spray everything with a neem oil mix that is an insecticide, fungicide, and miticide. The papaya was ready to get out of the chilly air.

For fear of ant colonies, the rosemary I pulled from the pots, gave them a root check, and repotted. They are moving to South Calhoun for the winter.

The agapanthus is another one that needs to get checked out. Several years ago one was brought in and it was like someone had knocked over an ant farm. They need repotted.

My Super Dwarf Cavendish banana plant has grown so much. When it arrived from Logee's I believe it was in a 4" or 6" pot.

Bananas flower and fruit once and then die, so it's a good thing that they reproduce easily. One dies and there are two more to take it's place. There are enough here, however, that I've thought about splitting the pot. I'll probably wait until the spring.

Such a handsome fella.

This elephant ear that was planted in a pot in the Hydrangea Border went crazy this year.

As I went to pull him out, however, I realized he wasn't double planted like the others. I had to go grab a shovel. 

Keeping the colocasia and alocasia in plastic pots makes it easier to move them at the end of the year. The pot just gets pulled up, hosed off, and in we go! I messed up this year and planted the alocasia (the one with the upright leaves) in too much sun. Alocasia like shade and dry-ish conditions, while colocasia (common elephant ears) want full sun and can be grown in water.

Inside a few pots of neglected amaryllis were given a deep drink of water. We will see if they do anything.

Slowly filling up. The smallest bedroom at my mom and dads' house has unobstructed southern light. Here everything survives, if not thrives. We still need room for the figs and the jasmine and the scented geraniums. Then we will be set for the freeze!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mindless Chores, Wandering Minds and Instant Gratification

There are many things I absolutely love doing that most people would think of as "chores". Folding clothes is at the top of the list. Ironing. Weeding the garden beds. Mopping floors, washing dishes, sometimes even dusting. Cleaning up after people are over for cocktails or dinner is a favorite thing to do, as well. I sleep much better when there is nothing dirty in the sink. South Calhoun came complete with a dishwasher, but I believe I've only attempted to use it twice. I mean, by the time you figure out where everything goes while loading it you could have just hand washed it and been done! Whereas standing at the sink (or pushing a mop, or folding a t-shirt) you can let your mind wander, or dissect the evening, or even just let your mind rest.

I know "Homemaking as Therapy" sounds a little crazy. It's just how I do things. Housework calms me down if I'm anxious or upset or even just exhausted. I think it's because accomplishing any task or chore gives you instant gratification. For me polishing silver ranks right up there with pulling weeds in the mental recharge department. Polishing is like meditation. I'm not even kidding. And then when the polishing is over you have a mini victory and for a split second there is nothing you can't do!

 "Hey silverware, I totally tackled you. Now watch me tackle life!"

If only it were really that easy.

Wright's Silver Polish is always my go to! I hadn't polished most of this since I moved. Most wasn't that bad. Remember if you use your silver it takes much longer to tarnish because you are washing it frequently. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Things First - Color

Yes, this paint has been on the walls for six months now, but I've been lax at posting. My intentions were to document on the blog the process of moving and decorating. That never happened. I did, however, take plenty of pictures so I can do some of that now.

Color is always the first thing to consider, and since South Calhoun was really and truly a blank canvas I was excited to use color in a much more thoughtful way than in the past. This was the first time I have ever been able to get everything painted ahead of moving, and since major pieces of furniture would be relocated (like the bookshelves that had been my "headboard" at Sheridan Court moving to the living room, and the china cabinet moving into my bedroom since I would now be without a proper dining room) I wanted to take full advantage of this lucky situation. Thankfully, with the help of friends and my contractor (heh, heh) it all got done in time.
I've been using Bedford Gray in my kitchens ever since Martha Stewart invented the color to use on everything, and I mean everything, at her Katonah farm. I love how it changes in the light. It's a darker gray than my old living room, but with the abundance of natural light and the 12' ceilings it works better than I ever imagined.

As in the past, we painted all of the trim and molding the same color. I love how it makes the details pop out. I wanted to, and then was convinced to, paint the pantry door and laundry closet door the same as the walls. They look great. I kept the front, bathroom, and bedroom doors and their trim white, but now want to paint them Bedford Gray as well.

The gray that went up in my bedroom made me nervous at first. It was really dark.

But we plowed ahead. The more walls it covered the more I liked it. I'm not used to having a largish bedroom, and that might have been what worried me at first. This would be quite dark in a small bedroom. The plan was always to use a lot of white in the room, but it was also the space my collections of faux bois pieces, mercury glass vases, and gilded mirrors and frames would occupy. Once everything began moving in and being hung I realized the color was perfect. Going with my gut paid off.

Keeping the trim white in here helps connect everything, as well as lightens the room. The wall at the right in the picture is destined to have some type of built in headboard or panelling or something or other. It will be a great winter project for my contractor.

Kyoto Green was another color for which I had been holding onto the paint chip for years. Here it worked perfect in the bathroom of all places,

Looking from the living room toward a glimpse of the bathroom. The green is bright, but wonderful for a small room. These are two of the doors I still want to paint.

The move was one of the worst weeks of my life. I'm really not exaggerating. One of my three big bookcases had to be cut down in order to fit them on the wall. I was rather bitchy at the time (I swear I measured like eight times!), but once it was all said and done they look great and I really don't even notice the change.

The only room that didn't get the color treatment was the closet, but more on that later.