Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, June 1, 2011 – Digitalis purpurea Foxglove

May 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – Peony Sarah Bernhardt

May 23, 2011

The Grand Canyon

I have always heard there is a tool for every job.  Finding the right tool can be a challenge for someone like me, an amateur gardener who sometimes shies away from power tools.  In my mind, power tools mean a loss of situational control and potential catastrophe.  I am new at gardening and have yet to strike the balance between being too reckless and too careful.  I can’t help myself.  I prune shrubs with a pair of hand snips; clipping one branch at a time, occasionally stepping back before proceeding to survey the results, just to make sure I don’t mess up the shape of the shrub.  I prefer a rake, which is far less noisy and can make raking a little more “zen” than a leaf-blower. However, there are times when you need a good old-fashioned gas-fueled engine to get the job done and get it done right.  For someone like me, it takes a few lessons in sweat and frustration to get the message through.

Two weeks ago Saturday, the big task of the day was to deal with the flower beds.  A major problem had been a lack of definition between bed and lawn, and it was a constant battle with the invading grass.  Last year, I decided to attack the problem by digging a shallow trench between the two.  The idea was to create a hard edge on the grass side, and a smooth “hill” on the bed side.  The results were disastrous.  Everything started out well, but the further I got, the more unevenly and deeper I dug. I ended up with the Grand Canyon, with edges that went straight down on both sides.  I tried piling mulch along the bed to help disguise the mean, hard edge, but it wasn’t long before this mask would all fall to the bottom of the Canyon, exposing the ugly reality of my failure.  To make matters worse, moss started spouting up along the Canyon walls.

Before. Ew, that's disgusting!

I finally discovered that I could rent a little machine called a bed edger.  It is about as big as a lawn mower but unlike a lawn mower, you pull it towards you instead of pushing it ahead of you.  As you pull it along, it digs a 4″ trench and pushes the dirt out onto the bed side, creating a nice, smooth mound.

Who knew it could be this easy?!

It also allowed me to create curved lines and to finally erase the giant rectangle I had originally dug down the side of the house.  The design principle I followed when I first created that bed years ago, consisted of rolling out a tube of weed barrier cloth.  The cloth was 36″ wide and so, voilà…the bed was 36″ wide!

Just look at those curves!

I even created a new bed in the process...

It didn’t take long; the job was complete and the edger returned in under 2 hours.  I spent the rest of the afternoon tidying up the beds, removing grass and adding fresh mulch.

No more Grand Canyon

May 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, May 18, 2011 – Burkwood Scotchbroom

May 15, 2011

Weekend Jam

The weather in our area had been gorgeous all week.  A multitude of sunny days with 70 degree temps strung together is more than anyone could ask for, except for maybe just one more pretty weekend.  The weekend finally arrived and with it, wet weather.  So, what do you do when Mother Nature throws you a curve ball and messes up your weekend outdoor plans?  Make jam, of course!

Strawberry season is underway, and berry picking is just getting started in our area, so I got up Saturday morning and drove out to my favorite PYO (Pick-Your-Own). As I approached the farm, I could see the field filled with people already picking.  The cool, drizzly weather and muddy fields didn’t keep people away.  They understand just how fleeting and precious strawberry season is, and that you have to take full advantage of it while it lasts.  Two days of rainy weather made for a very muddy patch, so it was a good thing I wore my wellies.  On days like Saturday, when I am mission-focused, I just put my head down and muscle my way through the task at hand.  There are other, more leisurely times when my husband and I will spend several hours at a PYO, and pick berries for the winter freezer stock up, but that’s another day, and another trip. There was jam to make Saturday, so I needed to get the picking done quickly, plus it was drizzling and I wanted to get back indoors. Just 30 minutes of picking gave me enough strawberries for my jam recipe with plenty leftover for us to munch on all week.

For my jam recipe, I needed 2 quarts of strawberries for 4 pints of jam.  I think I started the cooking process with the heat a bit too high, and the strawberry/sugar mixture boiled over.  Luckily, I was close by and was able to stop it but not before it made a huge mess on my stove top.  I ended up with 3 pints.  No matter; I am happy with the results.  Maybe I will make another batch next weekend, weather permitting.  For now, I guess I better get the stove top cleaned up. Ugh.

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May 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, May 11, 2011 – Clematis Jackmani


May 7, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day

I am using this photo for my Mother’s Day post in recognition of a springtime tradition I attribute to my Mom. Every spring I buy a big geranium annual for the urn on my front porch, with the only real question being each year, what color? I think the tradition began from watching my Mom adorn her porch for as long as I can remember, with potted geraniums and other colorful annuals to welcome visitors and Spring’s arrival.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

What color did you get?

May 4, 2011

May Blooms

May blooms!

Well, sort of.  A quick assessment of the garden on May Day, revealed a few perennials making entrances, albeit small and quiet ones.

The foxglove is just beginning to open. These bloomed all summer long, and I am hoping for more of the same this year. Foxglove is a biennial, so I will be curiously tracking the ones that bloomed last year to see what they will do. Who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise me.  I planted several that never came to bud, so I anticipate they will bloom this year. We’ll see.

The Dianthus in the front bed is just getting fired up, as are the two geraniums in the background.  Coneflower and black-eyed Susan are in between, quietly waiting for their turn this summer.

The big surprise was the verbena.  I wasn’t so sure it would be back this year, but was happy to find its leaves poking up from the ground, off of what appeared to be dead stems.  I hadn’t noticed any buds on it before but found it flowering all of a sudden.

And last but not least, the lettuce is looking tasty!

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