Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Garden Chores

During the recent two weeks when we had family staying a good deal of the time, I didn't work in my flower gardens.
The weather has been on a roll of partially cloudy/overcast with brief, but torrential late afternoon showers which give way to shimmering misty evenings.
Clumps of grass and weeds have burgeoned in the perennial strips.
Seedlings in small pots on the front porch have crowded out of their space, badly in need of settling into the garden.
The lower perennial strip alongside the driveway has had less attention than the upper strip.
I started it in the summer of 2010 primarily as a place for rugosas and other shrub roses.
I have relied on seed-started perennials and a very few nursery plants to 'fill in' between the roses.
This has resulted in quite a ragged appearance.
Gina purchased a number of potted plants at the Amish auction when she and her family arrived in April, 2011. As the weeks went by before they could move into their own home, most of the plants were stuck into the lower strip. The lupines, which I admired, languished and didn't reappear the following spring.
Several pots of verbena rigida managed to take over about 10 feet of the garden, pushing up around the roses, rooting into the lawn, threatening to crowd out all other plants.
On Friday I decided the verbena needed to go away--all of it!
I began loosening colonies of it only to find that tough, stringy, yellow roots ran in all directions.
Its capacity for sending out runners would rival the mints, as verbena rigida sends roots down as well as outward from the main plant.
Often I would seize the exposed portion of a root, yank on it and find that it extended several feet, entangled with the tidy roots of coneflower and monarda lambada.
I dug, pulled, unraveled, dug some more. I used a sharp-pointed slender trowel to root out plants which had spread into the grass strip between the perennial borders.
Several hours later, with a heap of wilting stems and wiry roots to dispose of, I realized that my forearms were welted with stinging scratches.
Googling the plant later, I discovered that a common name is 'sandpaper verbena!' 
Only a few sites which picture and describe the plant advise that is is 'invasive!'

With the area cleared [I hope] and raked, I began fetching small plants from my stock on the front porch: Achillea, Spanish Foxglove, several varieties of Coneflower.
Given the enthusiasm of my feline 'helpers' I have hedged my seedlings with a forest of protective sticks broken from the slender water maple branches which litter the back lawn after each heavy rain.

I have two coneflowers bought as potted plants, both in sunset hues. Most of my coneflowers, such as this one, have been started from seeds.
They are hardy, surviving heat and drought, remaining upright in all but the fiercest of wind and rain.
My flower gardening is increasingly about sturdy plants which I can start from seed and divide when they become established.

The achillea in the foreground was candy pink as it opened and has faded to a softer shade.
It is from a seed mixture labeled as 'pastels.'  Others in the mix have proved to be creamy yellow,
buff, pale salmon.
The Shasta daisies were also started from seed last season.
The pink phlox was from a mail order nursery and is so pleasing that I'm considering ordering
other colors.
The ground on this side of the drive slopes slightly to the south  and would have been a good place for terraced beds.
In my most improbable horticultural daydreams I think of building raised beds here with gravel walks between.  [Not a likely happening!]

The combination of phlox, daisies and several shades of achillea is so pleasing that I walk about  taking photos from all angles.
Friends from our church attended our anniversary party armed with a potted tree lily called 'Tiny Hope.'
The label shows a dark red flower and specifies that the lily will mature to 15 inches.
On Sunday morning--with a gift card burning a hole in my wallet--I walked through the so-called garden center at the local Wal Mart, not really expecting to find anything appealing.
What I discovered was 3 pots of 'Tiny Ghost' a white lily in the miniature series.
They have joined  the dark red one in the garden space so laboriously cleared on Friday.

It isn't often that I appear in photos [which is just as well, I think!]
A brief hard rain accompanied by crashing thunder, Monday afternoon, left us with clear skies and much cooler temperatures for the evening. During most of the storm I sheltered on the front porch, repotting two of my large rosemarys which have been looking rather sad.
The poor things had sent a tangle of roots into the bottoms of their pots.
They have been gently re-homed in larger pots with some coarse sand mixed into potting soil.

After the storm, SIL Matt walked up from home and borrowed my camera to zoom in on a heron that circled the dooryard and then went to rest in a treetop near the creek.
I didn't know that he was zooming in on me as well!
This photo, taken as he walked up the drive, gives a strangely fore-shortened view of the big rock near the long drive and makes the garage appear much closer than in reality.
I rooted clumps of grass and violets from around the big rock and put in signet marigolds and a few other rather wispy seedlings.

As I bent to pick up my muddy weeds, M. called out that only children play in mud!
As you can see my patched jeans are soaked to above the knees.
My feet in flip-flop sandals were wet and cold.
Bobby McGee, my helper was wet to his furry armpits.

               My fingernails have required much scrubbing and my hands are not those of a lady!

Carting off my muddy debris, quite chilled and ready for a hot shower and a mug of tea.

It was near dark by the time I  put away my tools, lined up seedling pots on the porch and swept away the litter of soil and greenery which I had created.
Oddly, the sky shows brighter in the photo than it was and the mauve and coral of the sunset is diminished.
Pebbles, the old horse, stands outlined against the sky and the barn is a stark outline.
My cold feet were slipping in my soaked sandals, the legs of my muddy jeans were clinging unpleasantly.
It was time to call it quits for the day!


  1. You sure have been busy. You inspire me and once I get over this summer cold, I need to get out and tackle some vines, etc.

    Love the photos of your flowers, but especially the ones of you and the last one of Pebbles and the barn.

    Have a good evening and a good sleep tonight.


    1. Lorraine; Although your garden is in a different climate zone, your lovely photos inspire me to keep weeding and digging and pruning. We are in Zone 6--considered sub-tropical--a designation I found incredible until I realized how quickly plants can get out of hand given some moisture and the normal humidity.

  2. That barn and Pebles shot is wonderful ...I feel I am looking on with you.Your flowers are gorgeous and I love the photos of you at work ...you are always working so hard ...but with lovely companions. xx

    1. Angie; I too love the shape of the old barn against the evening sky. These days what I accomplish as 'work' isn't a patch on former years, but surely that is part of the aging process!

  3. I had to look up the Verbena, as that's a new one to me. Invasive . . . ah yes, had a few of those down the years. Never buy Achillea ptarmica The Pearl or you will regret it (I am still trying to get rid of it in my long border).

    I loved your Phlox - my mum used to grow those in her front garden at home. I have planted several here, but they don't appear to have survived the winter. Yet more gaps . . .

    You have a very English looking border with the Phlox and daisies and Achillea. Looks beautiful.

    I am still looking at clumps of Buttercups amongst what is left in my big border and sighing . . .

    LOVED the photos of you and the final one of sunset over Pebbles and the barn.

    1. I have always loved the plants associated with English gardens. In New England, as far north as we were, some of those were rather if-y survivors of the harsh wintrs. Here, many lovely and delicate things such as Lady's Mantle, delphinium, Campanula, coral bells [to name a few] melt away in the heat after a single spring flowering.
      As I read more about English gardens via blogs I begin to suspect that UK has many varied weather patterns that subvert the plans and desires of the most avid and experienced gardeners.
      Re photos of me: I'm mystified that while a glance in any mirror still lets me pass as dark haired, photos pick up on the undeniably silver strands.

  4. I have to agree with the others - the picture of the barn and Pebbles is perfect.

    1. Lillian; The editor of our local online magazine remarked to me that area barns are picturesque right up to the point of falling over. The former owner of our little farm told us the barns were built in the 1930's.

  5. Me too - I would love a barn like yours and your lovely garden too. You must be very fit after a day doing all that!

    1. Em; As a child of farming stock I've always appreciated barns--sturdy, sheltering structures to be explored.
      Fit--not as I'd like to be. I miss having good places to walk!