Monday, August 25, 2014

A Look At the Cutting Garden

Years ago when we built the new Vegetable Garden, we created a Cutting Garden in the old space. I planted tulips and allium and hyacinths in the fall, and cosmos, zinnias, asters, sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, globe amaranth, dahlias, and snap dragons the following spring. About four years ago the Cutting Garden turned into the Berry Patch, although it still does double duty with all of the old Darwin tulips returning every year, as well as the hyacinths. The allium will all soon be dug and relocated, and space for direct sowing seeds is long gone, so we needed a new little space where we can cut with abandon.

The bed along the south side of the house was perfect. It had been filled with ditch lilies and black eyed Susans for many years, and this Spring we finally cleaned it up, transplanted and divided everything, and had a raw space to sow seeds. Of course I still pick from the main garden beds, but there I always pick carefully so as not to spoil the overall look of the borders. It's great to have a little place to grow things with no other purpose than filling the indoors with flowers.

The bed is about three feet deep and fifteen feet long. Plenty of room for a crowded little cutting garden.
We had been planting sunflowers in the Vegetable Garden, but last year they didn't seem to do very well. We've had much better luck this year, even if everything went in rather late.

The cosmos are really just beginning to open.

But they are certainly worth the wait!

Not sure what color he wants to be.

This is from a cosmos 'seashells' mix.

Zinnias are just the brightest, happiest of flowers. A happy accident was planting them between the sunflowers and cosmos. Being overshadowed, their stems have "stretched" toward the sun, creating some of the longest stems I've ever seen! So much easier for cutting and arranging.

This 'Envy' zinnia has faded a bit to the yellow side, but when they first bloom they are the brightest chartreuse of any flower.

Pretty, pretty, pretty.

The sunflowers are stretching up at the back of the bed.

A beautiful 'Chianti' sunflower.

A rather short 'Mammoth' sunflower.

Such a happy, cheerful picture of Summer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mulching, Planting, and More Mulching (And More Planting)

Humidity has returned this week, putting an end (so far) to our English summer. That doesn't mean work in the garden has stopped, however. Especially since we now have more to plant than ever!

Last week I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The right place was one of the big garden centers. The right time was arriving after they marked down a bunch of boxwood and privet to $1 each. Granted, the boxwood are little tiny babies. But for $1 each who could resist? I bought 19. And two more snowball viburnum. And four privet. On top of that we brought in two yards of mulch to begin mulching all of the beds we've weeded. We have a bad habit of weeding, moving on to something else before we mulch, and then having to weed again. Needless to say this isn't a very efficient use of time.

Taking a break from redesigning the south end of the garden, I began to tackle the Shade and White Gardens.

It's hard to believe the Hydrangea Border is already beginning to show it's end of summer colors.
Many blooms are still vibrant, but many more are fading to green. The Hydrangea Border runs along the north side of the house, and is usually the first thing visitors see upon entering the garden. I still need to edge and mulch here.

Two shades of fading pink.

Ferns grow wonderfully in the Hydrangea Border. It's high time for the hosta to be divided. Many divisions will be relocated to the large bed out front. The rest will fill in some areas of the Shade Garden. 

My upright elephant ear has done great this summer. It's hard to imagine it was just an orange-sized tuber a few years ago. This planter sort of marks the entrance to the garden. The sunflower was planted by a squirrel with a green thumb.
The instant gratification that comes with mulching beds is amazing. I still need to get some sort of brick or stone edging for the Peony Border, White, and Shade Gardens, but that will not be happening this year.

Now for new plantings. Where the Hydrangea Border meets the Shade Garden I planted seven of the little boxwood. See? They are tiny! However, I will always want them pretty low in this spot. I'm planning on doing the same curve on the opposite side, creating a bit of a low entrance to the path through the Shade Garden. All of the ferns in the garden have done great with this mild summer. On the right between the boxwood and the ferns are four little clearance Jacob's Ladders.

Taking no risk for rabbits or the lift of a stray dog's leg, I've used this milk crate as a protective cage over my Empress Wu hosta.

Considering that she was about the size of the little hostas popping up around her (from seeds dropped by some established plants) she has done pretty well. I can't wait until she is a giant!

The White Garden continues to slowly come together. The white columbines have all dropped seeds that have sprouted. Being that they are around many other columbines, however, I'm not counting on them being true to color. The little white hydrangea need to be relocated, perhaps to mark the "entrance". The low, concrete bowl planters full of white impatiens are glorious, and the white flowered hosta are just about to bloom.
This little hydrangea paniculata needs to be moved. The pee gee hydrangeas like sun, which I didn't know. Our six year old Limelight out front is 8 feet tall! This guy has been in his semi-shady spot for almost three years. He is somehow going to be incorporated into the changing south section of the gartden.

In his place will be the two $1 snowball viburnum. Once they join their older sibling at the top of the photo the three of them should make a nice screen behind the bench.

$3 Korean spice viburnum? Don't mind if I do! The decades old shrub we have out front always blooms around my birthday, and just a few branches full of the flower clusters fill the room with their scent. This one has been planted where the Peony Border meets the White Garden.

Looking back to the entrance. The section with no mulch on the right is where we had stacked wood long enough for the grass to die off and will be filled in with bulbs and hostas. The grass path gets rather narrow, but I do want to keep it. I still need to mulch the rest of the White Garden while it's weeded!
Earlier in the summer I found about ten Japanese Painted Ferns for $1.50 each.

I planted them in sort of a wave in front of the Itoh peony that replaced the poor tree peony killed over the winter. They have been joined by some foxglove and random leftover impatiens. There really still is a lot of work to do, and I know fall is a ways off, but I'm feeling the pressure to get everyone in the ground. After everything I accomplished last weekend I'm beginning to think it can be done.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Changes In The Garden

For the past few years I've been kicking around the idea of expanding the perennial beds in the South section of the garden in order to move many of our plants forward, and plant some larger shrubs and trees along the fence, creating both privacy and a backdrop for the smaller plants. On Sunday, all of a sudden, we went for it. We have a long way to go, but already things are really coming together.

Take a look!

I know, I know. Using a hose to measure and define a space is not very professional, but it worked! I laid it out how I wanted it on one side, and then measure out from the existing beds to the curve in the hose and adjusted as necessary.

I also realized I needed to do some digging to unearth the bricks that once edged the Long Border along the fence. Years of heaving and encroaching grass have caused them to pretty much disappear.

In a few sections you can see a bit better how they once were placed. A nice brick edging works great, but I have new plans for these bricks.

"Lasagna" gardening has worked well for us in the past, and we decided to repeat the process here, but with the bonus step of "scalping" the grass with a string trimmer.

The next step is to lay newspaper or cardboard down, and then soil followed by mulch. I'm always too impatient, so we scalp first and kind of rough up the sod with a pitch fork or shovel, then add dirt, then mulch. This allows me to plant this year rather than waiting for the Spring.

The curved lawn will eventually have a pergola-like construction in the center covered, one day, with autumn clematis. I think. In the meantime we will have quite a bit of moving to do as all of the plants up close to the fence will be moved elsewhere to allow for privet, viburnum, and other taller shrubs to create a living hedge, and obscure the fence. All of the plants will have such a better backdrop than just a chain link fence.
As we began bringing the dirt around I realized I needed to get the rest of the bricks dug out.

We used a top soil mixed with sand. I know some say sand doesn't really help with heavy clay soils, but we used this when we created the Hydrangea Border and that part of the garden grows probably better than any other.
More brick...
As the sun was setting I had removed all of the bricks. We had also managed to get some of the sale plants that had been languishing for too long into the ground.

Looking in the opposite direction. The Surprise Lilies (or Naked Ladies) have been wonderful this year.
See what I mean? These may be slightly thinned this year after they bloom in order to spread them around the garden.
A few of them barely made it out of the ground.

These are in another section of the garden that has a bit of everything growing in it. That is my ultimate goal with this part of the garden. I want everything spread everywhere, rather than have a bed of daylilies here, a bed of black-eyed Susan's there, and a single iris blooming over that way. Oh! And look there at the bricks at the South entrance to the garden!
This is how all of the beds will eventually be edged. It takes twice as many, but the end result will be worth it!