Saturday, December 20, 2014

Garden Winterizing Complete

After some early freezing, December warmed up quite a bit. Despite raining on almost every day I had off of work, the mild weather allowed the winterizing process to stretch out until this past Sunday when it was in the 40s! We needed to get all of the boxwood burlapped, the little white azalea protected, and maybe something around the forsythia. After a little looking, we needed to protect several other things, not from snow, but from varmints.

 The boxwood themselves are hardy. Heavy, wet snow, however, can cause damage to the branches by weighing them down until they snap. The same with ice. The burlap just keeps everyone snug and safe throughout the winter. One boxwood is beginning to get a little large, and the big old boxwood out front is way too big to wrap in burlap, so I was wondering what else I might do . I didn't have to look far, for as usual Martha was already on top of things. See how she is wrapping her larger boxwood this year by clicking here. You can also see how she's been "burlap obsessed" in the past here.

Take a look at our much more humble burlapping project, completed just in time for the start of Winter!
Every spring I swear I am going to get the staples pulled out of the stakes and see what needs replaced. Every fall I'm kicking myself for not having done these things.

This guy graduated to some taller stakes this year. Next year he might just get wrapped in netting.

The random sizes along the patio are growing larger, but it is still easier to wrap them all under one "tent".

Everyone under wraps. We increased our boxwood count by about 20 this year! (although they are very small)

Rather than cut the burlap or the stakes, I just made the tents for the tiny shrubs tall. These I can take apart in the spring, re roll the burlap, and mark where it was used. Boxwood is a slow grower, so I should be able to reuse this for a few years.

Some rabbits have already been chewing on the new Japanese maples, so I used some leftover wire fencing and made some collars for the little trees. I just don't understand why they leave them alone in the summer, but chew them down in the winter. Hopefully this acer palmatum 'Wolff' will survive the winter.

They had also already begun chewing on the azalea. Now he's protected from the wind and the rabbits.

The "tent" on the left will also act as a bit of a windbreak for another new Japanese maple and the Rhododendron.
This Japanese maple, acer palmatum 'Red Dragon', gets a collar, too. He was the first one I noticed had been chewed on.
Go home, daffodils. You're drunk.

The long row along the patio. I still need to find one more larger boxwood for the near end to balance out the other two. I'll have to scour the clearance plants next summer.

One of the little primula, or primrose, had decided it was still warm enough to bloom. I need to see if the flower ever opened before the cold hit.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Before The Snow Fell

The snow was falling before I even made it out into the garden yesterday. With temperatures about to plummet for the next few days I am hanging all of my hopes on the far off forecast that Thanksgiving week, while I'm on vacation, the temperatures make it back into the 40s and I will be able to finish up everything.

Last week, despite rain and wind, I managed to get quite a bit done before the snow flew. I'm happy to say all of the actual plants that were in pots have been planted, and as of today 544 bulbs have gone into the ground. Spring should be quite a lovely show.

Here's an update on the seemingly endless Fall planting.
A large, healthy bulb of a fritillaria persica. The roots really couldn't wait to get growing!

A few weeks ago I was edging the new curved beds with brick and planting some mixed muscari bulbs. I bought more muscari bulbs since then, and needed to dig carefully to see where I had left off. Luckily the bulbs I had already planted have all sent up healthy shoots toward the surface, so very little digging revealed their location. Grape hyacinths are wonderful in that they send up leaves in the fall as if to say "Here we are! Plant around us!" I wish all bulbs did likewise.
A section of the extended part of the Long Border along the south end of the garden. The bright foliage of the snowball viburnum and then two of the newly planted privet along the fence. The goal is a tall hedge to create a backdrop for the garden, as well as privacy. These are the things I wish I would have thought of years ago, because now we have a lot of plants to move away from the fence. However, we will also be able to divide many mature clumps of plants, such as the large daisy in the foreground.

I love to plant tulips in large clumps. We purchased quite a few packages of solid colors, and I have been planting them in masses of two colors. Here are three 'Gladiator' alliums as well. I never managed to move all of the allium from the Berry Patch (leftovers from when the Berry Patch was out Cutting Garden) but I did buy some new bulbs to add to the expanded beds.

More muscari. The clump of green leaves were moved from the edge of a grass path that is now part of the expanded beds, and the bulbs are a part of the 150 or so new ones purchased this fall.

I still need many more bricks, but the edging is really coming together. These Lamb's Ears were sickly little sale plants when I bought them over the summer. One remained rather sickly, but these two grew three times their size in just a few months. The daylily is a transplant, and planted a bit too close. So many things still need to be moved, but will need to wait until the spring.

The kitchen Garden truly needs to be put to bed. There are still some carrots and turnips that I might just mulch and dig all winter, but all of the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, and tomatillos need to be removed and the beds raked.
In my mad dash to get everything in the ground, eight little hollyhock plants were planted along the back fence in the Kitchen Garden. There are several "specialty" tulips that will also be going in out here for bouquets in the spring. I hate planting anything other than Darwin Hybrid or other reliably "perennial" tulips bulbs in the decorative garden beds, but will plant them in the Kitchen Garden and have a few years of flowers from them.

I love the colors of the Berry Patch in the fall. The gooseberries are the brightest red!

Eventually (I have dreams that they are secretly being made for me for Christmas, but doubt that that is true) there will be a trellis over the center of the East and West paths on either side of the new "circle" of lawn created by the new beds. This clematis will climb one of them. However, if those don't appear for a while it can get a start on this plain little one.

Here you can see a little more of what I'm talking about. The original perennial beds were the "Long Border" along the fence and four 4'x8' beds at each end of the space. Now you can see how the Long Border is now connected to two of these beds, creating a semi-circular lawn. A plain metal trellis will be over the two grass paths on an axis across the lawn.

There are plans to build a structure for seating against the fence in the back center, and narrowest point, of the circle lawn. Something like a pergola surrounded in lattice and covered with Sweet Autumn clematis. You can see I have a lot more brick to place.

Out front planting continues as well. There is a bed at the two front corners of the property. And once this hydrangea catches up with the enormous limelight in the other corner, they will be very similar. The bed with the limelight hydrangea has a large clump of yucca, so I planted this variegated yucca in the same spot in the opposite bed. the small clumps of Stella D'Oro, a rather common daylilly, are from a large clump I needed to move in order to finally get the Julia Child rose in the ground.

My friend Sarah gave me this Opuntia cactus. At least I'm pretty sure that is what it is. Opuntia Humifusa are a type of Prickly Pear cactus native to Eastern North America, growing from Montana to the Great Lakes and from the Florida Keys up to Connecticut and Long Island. I really hope he survives the winter!

The bed on the South side of the house, our current "Cutting Garden" has all been ripped out until next year. The ground here gets rather wet in the spring, and the 40+ tulips I planted probably rotted, as only about 5 ever grew. I'm not making that mistake again and will happily leave this as a place to direct sow in the spring.
The Julia Child rose is a floribunda, and has found a new home right by the front door. Almost all of the roses have been planted for 30 years on the front (east) side of the house. Hopefully she will grow even better here than she did in her pot all summer.

One last look into the "new" garden. There is still so much to be done, mud piles to attack, and plants to move (and new ones to buy). For now I will be happy to simply finish planting the bulbs and wait patiently for the rewards we will reap in the spring.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Warm Up Tonight With Arroz Con Pollo

Martha Stewart's newest cookbook is out and is fantastic. "One Pot:120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More" has some great, easy to make recipes that leave you with very little cleanup. Perfect for making dinner after work. I've only made a few recipes so far (like the one pot pasta), but so far, so good.

The recipe for Arroz Con Pollo is a perfect choice for nights when the temperature is dropping and you're ready to relax after a long day. There is about a half hour of active cooking (a lot of stirring to me means relaxing), and then another 25-30 minutes in the oven. However, I think the results seem like you spent much longer in the kitchen than you actually did.

Mise en place! Pret a cuire! Or something close to that (I'm working on my French). I love how mindless cooking can be when you have everything prepped ahead of time. Also, I love when a recipe requires opening a bottle of wine.
"I'm just mad about saffron..." especially when it's drunk! White wine and saffron make the warmest golden colored rice.

Brown the chicken, remove it to a plate, then get the onions and garlic going.

Add the tomato, wine, and saffron.

After the wine is mostly evaporated stir in the rice and Bay leaves.

Add the stock and olives. Nestle the chicken in at the top of the Dutch oven, bring to a simmer, and place it in the oven.

 About 30 minutes later you have a gorgeous dinner you can take right to the table.

So good. The rice warms you up immediately (even when you sneak some before the 10 minute rest period is up), the chicken in juicy and falling apart, and the leftovers are even better. Arroz con pollo is a great alternative to the everyday comfort food.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Planting Continues, and Frost Is On The Way!

Last week we really had a scare as temperatures were forecast to dip down to 30 degrees. It was rainy and cold after work, and the trusty stack of old sheets were grabbed, potted plants massed together, and more of the tropical plants hurried inside. No matter how much time I think I have, or how organized, that first frost always causes a bit of chaos. Wet, windblown, and chilled, everyone was covered. Even the dahlias were tucked in that night since I just couldn't believe it was already time for their blooming to end.

That night it only got down to 34 degrees.

Now that I, once again, have a bit of time, I really need to get things done. There are still about 20 plants, from ferns to lilies to clematis that need planted. Oh, and the bulbs. I don't even want to talk about the number of bulbs we have to plant. Today was damp and a bit drizzly, but I managed to get some things in the ground.

It might frost again tonight.
Last week I found a few sad looking Japanese maples shivering on a clearance table for about $8 each. Now that I am Hell bent on adding some trees to the Shade Garden, I thought these slow growers would be great. That is, if they survive the winter without being eaten.

This one is Acer palmatum 'Wolff', also called Emperor I. It is hardier in colder climates since it breaks bud later in the Spring, avoiding late frosts. It can grow up to 15' tall.
The second little maple is called Red Dragon (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Red Dragon') and will grow 5-8 feet tall, and about 5 feet wide. Since his size is a bit smaller I planted him closer to the house, just behind the curve of little boxwood. Japanese Maples are slow to moderate growers, and he will take about 15 years to reach his mature height.
Several hydrangea in the Hydrangea Border, despite their autumn foliage, are still happily blooming.

Another look at the new boxwood "curves" into the Shade Garden. I really am loving the way these look, and how healthy they seem to be. It will mean more burlapping this winter, but even if the investment was small (these were the super cheap boxwood plants I bought a month or more ago) I still want to protect them. 
They do seem happy. Many have bounced back from my rather hard pruning.

I've never seen a hellebore I didn't like. Indeed, somehow I ended up with far more than I thought, buying them whenever I saw them on sale. I planted one...

...two (notice all of the little columbines popping up from seed)...


...and four. I think there are still two more.
Five more little boxwood have been planted in a curve from the older, large boxwood at the corner of the patio. I also divided and replanted the edging of muscari.

Out in the garden I am testing one of the inexpensive grow tunnels I found for $5. I've planted a late crop of mesclun and some carrots. The mesclun should do fine, the carrots I will probably end up heavily mulching with leaves and harvest them in the spring. I have another of these tunnels that I think I might use for turnips and beets. Just a bit of an experiment as we go into winter.

The tomatoes are fading fast, but the nasturtiums I underplanted in their pots are looking gorgeous.

A vibrant yarrow is sending up some late blooms in one of the perennial beds.

There is a rather large crop of late red and gold raspberries in the Berry Patch. There is so much work to do out here with the raspberries and gooseberries and weeds and pruning the currants. It might need to wait until Spring.
The cutting bed is still giving a bounty of fresh flowers. The cosmos are out of control.

The zinnias are fading fast, but still putting forth a brave effort to give a few more bright blooms.

So lovely. It's easy to forget that Fall is here and frost is on the way when looking a cosmos flower in the face.