Monday, April 30, 2012

Planting Sunflowers

Sunny in the morning, 60 degrees and cool, but the wild winds of the past days have died down.  No frost forecast overnight for the next week, so I planted the sunflower seedlings.

It's early, but they are under the elaborate wire and bird netting cages I built last winter, and I can throw a blanket over all if it's expected to get into the 30s.

I could not get the wire tomato cages into the ground deep enough to have the lowest rung contact the earth, so I turned them upside down, with the prongs in the air, and used soil staples to hold them down.

I hope this works!  As they grow and the stems get woody and less susceptible to critters eating them, I think I can take the cages off.  This is an experiment in progress.

I used the cool early morning to turn the compost windrow with a pitchfork.  Hard work.  The grass clippings pile up into a solid mass, unaerobic and horribly slimy below.  The whole pile needs frequent turning and some brown material to break up all the green decomposition.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Such Wind

Yesterday was incredibly windy.  Too cold and unpleasant to work outside even though it was partly sunny.

The metal wheelbarrow, overturned on top of the newly delivered 4 yards of mulch, was lifted and sent flying down the driveway.

Today was sunny and cold, in the 50s, but less windy, and we spread the mulch.  A good crisp day to do heavy work.

At first it seemed like this additional load of 4 yards was too much and we couldn't use it all.  We spread it thickly on the back of the berm to use it up. 

But then we decided to add a thin layer to the driveway garden to freshen it, and there wasn't enough in the end.  It is spruce mulch from Envirocycle, very dark, and you can see the contrast in color where we spread it.  Not enough of a shortfall to order any more though!

Total volume of mulch we spread this spring: 12 cubic yards!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


What the?  No frost was in the forecast, but it did get down to the 30s last night and there was a sparkly coating on the grass and on the deck steps this morning.

I had brought the newly planted salvias and the seedlings into the porch, so they were well.

But one of the new sassafras saplings has black, limp leaves.  I think it will be all right, and will put out other new leaves.  The damaged ones were just coming out, not fully opened.  But it is so new, and I have such poor luck getting sassafras going, I just hope this unexpected hard frost did not do it in.

There is now a prediction for 31 degrees tomorrow night.  April.  Sheesh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blackhaws Blooming

In the high 50s today.  Sunny, cool and crisp this morning, but cloudy and breezy this afternoon.  Actually kind of chilly.

After all the rain everything looks good.

I potted up the three Black & Blue salvias in big containers.  Too soon --- they won't like the chilly nights and cool windy April days, but there is no frost forecast in the next 10 days, so they can get used to the garden even if they won't take off yet.

I am excited that the blackhaw viburnums are finally blooming this year.  The one under the bathroom window was planted in 2006, so after six years, it's nice to see a few blooms.  The newer one, in the small garden fronting Meadow's Edge, actually has more blooms.  It was planted in 2009, and transplanted in 2010.

The geums are still so cute, but hard to photograph.  Same thing for the spreading forget me nots.

Tiarellas are opening and look much better than last year.

Blueberries are laden with flowers, and are quite attractive in their new open location in front of Meadow's Edge.

Epimediums are filling out.  I really wish I had switched the cultivars!!  Rubrum, under the maple in back, is delicate light green and should go under the pink flowering dogwood.  The flowers, which come out a little later than the dogwood, are pink and magenta.
Rubrum, under the maple

Frohnleiten, under the pink dogwood, has red and green and bronze foliage, and sulphur yellow flowers that come out exactly when the dogwood blooms and they don't go together.  It would look better under the maple, where there is more of a golden and red thing going on with emerging foliage.

Would I even think about switching them?  Too much to dig up established patches?  Should I do it next fall?

The little tiny Ajuga Chocolate Chip plants are blooming a rich dark blue that will look good, when they spread, under the coppery zenobia foliage that still persists.  The new zenobia foliage is powdery green blue.

The ajuga is so pretty close in, but as you can see, they are still new and haven't spread, and can't even be seen in the mulch!  I ordered more, but these just have to mature and spread some.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And the Total Is . . .

3 inches of rain yesterday and overnight. 

A real soaker after all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

At Long Last

It's raining.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Planting Trees

Arbor day
I planted trees today, while waiting for a heavy soaking rain that is coming up the coast.  Should be here tomorrow.  Rain heavy at times.

It was pleasant, in the low 70s today and very breezy.  But digging the holes for the new trees was an exercise in cement demolition.  So dry, so compacted, so awful.

I planted:

A persimmon out by the road cut.

Three tuliptrees 'Little Volunteer' at the base of the back hill.

Another sassafras where the Arborday redbud was (and is no longer.)

And I planted six 'Ruby Slippers' lobelia. around the patio wall.

I potted up the violas we got yesterday in containers.

Planted the tiny 'Carolina Moonlight' baptisia in the Birch garden, in the front left side where nothing does well.  The drainage on that side is good, and  it gets the most sun in that garden.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Flower Power

Still so dry, no rain (other than 2 tenths of an inch) for six weeks, but the forecast for Sunday says rain.  And they used the term "soaker".  We'll see.

I scratched out the rest of the holes in the meadow for the sunflower seedlings.  It's so dry it was like chipping out cement, but I added compost / soil mix to each little plot and the holes are ready for planting after we get some rain.
Sunflower seedlings ready to be planted

Then Jim and I went to the new nursery on route 5 in East Windsor, Flower Power.  It is absolutely huge.  Lots of annuals and vegetables, the very common shrubs and trees and perennials, but lots of everything.

I stocked up on purple alyssum, found the 'Pretty Much Picasso' supertunias that I could not find at all last year, and got some sweet violas.  Some basil for a pot near the door, a hanging basket.  All good.

Yesterday I planted the new corylopsis goana 'March Jewel' that I had seen at Broken Arrow.  They didn't have it, but one was growing at the doorstep.  I ordered one from a place called Camelliaforest.  This is a dwarf winter hazel that stays about four feet high and wide.  Very pretty up close.
The low growing corylopsis may soften the now black urn

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Much Mulch

We made a dent in the 6 cubic yards of mulch.  In fact, Jim and I spread 2/3 of it today.  We worked so hard, and are so sore now, but at least it was cool today, only in the mid 60s.

I may still need more, we're only about half done with all the areas that need coverage!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It Was a Record

It was not just warm yesterday, it was hot.  It was 92 degrees, a record.  And very humid, summery and windy.  We're sleeping with the windows wide open all night.

Today has cooled and is much more refreshing and breezy and dry.  It's in the high 70s.

Yesterday in the heat I planted one of the new sassafras plants, and transplanted the tiny little Arbor day twigs out in the meadow (a sugar maple and a red oak.)

Bad idea, it was just too hot and windy.  Too uncomfortable and not good for the plants.

I got after more rosa multifloras, cutting them and painting the stubs with herbicide.

Today, I did small jobs.  I planted the three little bun-shaped chamaecyparis plants in the front walk, cleaned things up, edged the dogwood garden where the epimedium is spreading and puttered.  I moved a few crowded rosy garlic scapes, I even trimmed the sedums --- in April. . . so early!  They were already getting big and needed pinching for shape. 

I also trimmed the Ghost Hills heaths.  The two that remain have finally grown into loose, rounded shapes.  They had been so malformed and ragged looking for the first several years.

Then six yards of mulch arrived from Envirocycle!  I started to spread a little in the front walk area and around the climbing hydrangea, but the majority of mulch moving remains to be done.

Blooming on April 17 --- the cute orange geums and the sky blue forget me nots. I like seeing them across from each other along the dry creek bed. 

The flowering dogwood is in full hot pink bloom.

The epimediums under it are all out.  The epimedium rubrum plants under the maple in back are much less full.  They're blooming, but barely.  They still need a year or two to establish.   But the fairy wings 'Frohnleiten' under the dogwood have spread so, and are blooming now.

The only three sassafras that survived have grown and are now blooming for the first time out by the road.

And the bottlebrushes of the fothergillas are out, even the new plants in the gravel garden border.  Last year, which was a cold damp spring, the fothergillas were at this stage on May 5.  The Angelina sedum has been a bright gold all spring.

It is all a little early, and it looks nice, but the dryness has made everything tentative, not bursting forth as these spring bloomers normally would.

A lot to do still.  Mulch, mulch, mulch.  Plant the three tuliptrees (Little Volunteer) I got for the back meadow.  And the persimmon and the other sassafras.  Plant the veronicas at the back of the Birch Garden.  Dig 8 more holes for the sunflower seedlings.  And more plants are coming!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Very warm and humid today, in the high 70s.  Hot sweaty work outside today!

The magnolia Elizabeth is blooming.  What a showgirl.

Most of the tight buds did get freeze-burned earlier this month, and they are looking a little brown and mushy after all.

But a few are creamy yellow and untouched.  Wow.

The tree is still so little (and it got reduced even further by the October snowstorm), so the heavy butter colored blooms look strange on the too tiny branches.

But she will fill out in the coming years.

The forsythias and daffodils are still in bloom, so it does look like spring.  Although the forsythias are just about to turn.

Geums are just now opening their orange blooms.  So cute.

I finally cleaned up the last of the load of soil / compost.  Jim took a trailer full out to the compost pile and we covered it so I will have a few buckets of soil for new plants.

Now, with the pavers cleaned off, I can order mulch.  Six yards?  Too much?  Not enough?

With the pile of soil cleared away, I worked on cleaning up the thymus serpyllum on the little bank edging the pavers.  What a mess.  The construction equipment killed some when we put in the gravel garden, the soil was dumped on the middle part, and a lot has been lost.

I put in six new plugs from Whiteflower Farm (divided, so 12 total), and you can see the tiny clumps in between what is left of the original thyme above.  But I need a lot more, especially to go around by the bluestone stepper entrance.  To Do -- order more.

So . . .  more thyme to cover the shoulder of the berm.  This fall I want to put in a lot of white daffodils, I like those, and when they go by, the big smokebush foliage should start to cover them.

I ordered aurinia (Basket of Gold), and that can go around the edge of the gravel on the back side and spread about.  I hope.

Finally, today I planted 'Gleam' nasturtium seeds outdoors, all around the gravel garden edges and in the strawberry jars.  Supposed to trail somewhat and I want them to spill over the edges of the gravel garden.

Too early?  

It says wait until frost is over, but the next 10 days are forecast in the 40s overnight, and that brings us to Memorial Day.  Iffy, but it could work.

If not, I'll cover any seedlings if frost occurs.  

Or replant.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring is Hurtling Along

70 degrees today and not so windy.  A little cloudy.  The whole neighborhood was out in their yards working today.

Basket of Gold (Aurinia)?  Saw this at Twombly Nursery.  Want it.
All of a sudden it seems like I am running out of spring!  I had such good weather to get major projects done in March, and thought I was way ahead.  Now there are just two more weeks to go until May --- the end of work prep in the garden and the start of the season.  Just two more weeks.

Part of the problem is that I am spending  a lot of time watering.  It doesn't do much good, but it's something.  Until I get mulch down a lot evaporates from the surface in the warm winds of April.

I need to finish up the dirt + compost pile, get it off the pavers, and then order mulch to be dumped in that spot.

What I did today:
  • Planted the additional groundcover willows (Salix yezoalpina) on the east side.
  • Also planted a pyramid boxwood (Buxus Green Mountain) on the east side and took out the Blau Doneau hydrangea that did not make it.
  • Fussed with water and hose connections.  Fussed some more. They still drip. 
  • Planted three additional Rhus aromatic Gro Low plants in the driveway strip and under the birch.
  • Planted my new Rosa glauca behind the tardiva hydrangeas in the driveway strip. Can't wait to see this come in!
  • Watered.
  • Fussed with the hoses.  They don't leak but they drip.

    Yesterday we went back to Broken Arrow to get some sassafras and the rosa glauca.  Then we visited Twombly Nursery --- what a huge place, and what gloriously big plants they have!  Wow.  I saw a patch of Aurinia (Basket of Gold) sweeping over a big area, and I want that for the top of the driveway.

    The thyme is pretty shot where the dirt got dumped on it.  I'll dig up what I can, replant it around the gravel garden edges, and maybe replace the thyme with aurinia.  Thoughts?

    The top edge above the pavers needs reworking.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Hello, Holly

    Cloudy and unsettled today, in the 50s, with rain clouds overhead but no rain reaching the ground.  It is still so very dry.

    The new Ilex opaca, American holly, was planted today.  Don Forde, from Stonegate Landscaping, put it in where the pear tree had been.

    It's a pretty little shape, at least from this side, the side facing the house.  The back side, facing the meadow, is not very full.  That is the side that was up against pine trees in the nursery field.

    Will full sun make that side branch out and fill in?

    What about down below?  I had wanted a holly that branched down to the ground.  I don't think this one will fill out below, but the slightly curved stem is kind of interesting.  There is a small single branch at the bottom that needs to be cut off.

    American holly is a slow grower.  We paid a fortune (!) for one this size.  It's taller than I am, but just.  Shapely on one side, a good single leader, but not really very full on the other side (yet), and not likely to sweep to the ground (ever).  That may be a good thing for the lawn mower --- brushing up against the spiny leaves is painful. 

    It was a size that I could not have planted myself, in fact it took three men to plant this one --- they dug the hole and put it in by hand and it took some doing.  It has a very large, well developed root ball.

    I'm happy with it, and glad it was professionally planted.  I do hope it fills in.

    Hello, holly!

    All My Hoses Leak

    Still so dry, no rain.  Windy and cloudy today, in the low 60s.

    I need to water the emerging trees and shrubs.  New leaves are coming out with brown edges on the little curled leaves.  The last rain was at the end of February.  Since then, just a few tenths of an inch in all of March, less than two tenths on April 1st, and nothing since.

    Every spring I make the same discovery: all the hoses, connections, spigots and faucets leak.

    The faucet extender by the front steps --- the one that cut the underground electrical to the lamp post when I hammered the support stake in --- that one creates a geyser when I turn it on.  The set screw in the handle, a tiny little thing, fell out.

    The hose by the steps to the deck has a spouting leak right in the middle of it, in the sheath that covers the hose itself.

    Nothing works.  Jim bought new ones today at Lowe's and I have been laboriously connecting them and winding the kinky stiff new hoses around the reel keepers.

    I ordered two new faucet extenders from Lee Valley yesterday.

    We shut the water off every winter.  We drain the hoses, but leave them outside, empty, wound on the reels.  I leave the faucet extenders in place in the ground.

    But every spring, the hoses are hosed, the connections kaput.

    Watering tools are like annuals.  I apparently need to buy new ones each year. 

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    A Dry, Cool Easter

    This Easter Sunday is like a good martini, dry and chilled.

    Everything came out so early in the hot March weather we had, but since April 1st it has been cold which has kept everything that opened or bloomed in a suspended state.  The forsythias still look good, kept in bloom by near freezing nights and cool sunny days.

    Golden Peep looks ok, but has the dying center crowns that the others did before I took them out.  Lynwood, out by the road, looks great still.

    Spirea blooms have faded now to a creamy color.  Camassia foliage is dark green and fully emerged, and the Karl Foerster grasses woven among the camassias are up and green too.

    And look at Orange Dream.  It's getting to be a nice Japanese maple shape (it will stay sort of shrubby though).  It glows from a distance as the orange leaves uncurl.

    I am not a fan of these tulips.  They are too soft, (viridifloras, green streaked) to make an impact massed in a pot, and the foliage is floppy, and one pot on the front steps got eaten by deer anyway, which defeated the purpose.  I don't think I'll do tulips again.  Kind of pretty, not impactful, not worth the bother all winter.

    I fussed with adding soil around the Dawn viburnum on the east side, and got a few rocks to hold back the little bank there.  Kind of goofy, but if the grass grows to the edge of the rocks and the spreading yezoalpina willows grow over the edge, maybe it won't look so dumb.  I might get a few more creeping willows at Kevin's.

    At least I got more soil around the roots of the viburnum.  The whole edge of the east side along the foundation is not right.

    The Nishiki willows are coming back.  I love seeing the buds and a few tiny branches popping out all over the stumps.  The leaves are looking a little stunted from the dry, as is everything that is trying to leaf out. Nothing is emerging lush and full right now, we need rain too badly.

    The viburnums are leafing out, and the shrub dogwoods.  The Isanti redtwig dogwood looks good against the fir tree in front.

    Friday, April 6, 2012

    Sweet Peas

    Cold and sunny and breezy, a normal April day in the high 50s.

    March was so warm that the grass greened up early and Jim had to mow it earlier this week.  It's slowed down now in the colder weather, but the uneven tufts and growing length had to be neatened up so he mowed on April 3 --- earliest ever, I think.

    Today I sowed the mixed color sweet peas (Burpee's Galaxy, to 15 feet).  I put several in to climb the trellis on the garage wall near the Japanese maple in front (where the too-rampant hops were).

    I put some on the half round towers in front of the meters, and I'll put Moonlight climbing nasturtiums there too, for when the sweet peas are gone by.

    And I put some in a pot by the entrance to the patio.  All good.

    I put a 75 foot soaker hose on the back strip to keep the buckeyes watered.  It's so so dry, everywhere I weed I create puffs of dust.  I still need to wind it more around each shrub.  Right now it is in too straight a line and only gets a narrow ribbon of dirt wet.  I'll fool with it this weekend.

    I also hand watered Meadow's Edge and put some spray on the Birch Garden.  So dry for April.  I watered the Orange Dream Japanese maple and the Black Gum out front too, and the stewartia.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Broken Arrow

    Cool and very windy.  In the high 50s, even up into the low 60s but the wind makes it feel chillier.

    Jim and I went to Broken Arrow today and I picked up some more Rhus aromatica Gro Low plants.  Also got a comptonia finally.  Where to put it? 

    And I got another persimmon for the back hill.  They will call later in the week to let me know when a rosa glauca (where to put that??) and some sassafras saplings come in.  They'll hold them for me.  We'll have to then go back down to get them.

    Such a great nursery, and the staff was very helpful.  I do wish they had more straight species, (like a sweetgum I wanted) but they specialize in golden or variegated foliage.  The sweetgum was a gold leaved variety, and I just want a regular liquidambar for the back hill.

    I also wanted a straight hamamelis virginiana, but they had several other varieties instead.

    Yesterday we went to O'Brien nursery in Granby. 

    He specializes in shade plants, particularly hostas, but had lots of interesting things to look at (technically he wasn't open, but encouraged us to walk around on our own.)

    And what a property, with plantings everywhere, a pond, paths and trails.

    It was a very enjoyable tour.

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    I Am Happiest When . .

    It was so cold and windy today that I didn't want to go outside.  Very breezy, sunny and in the mid 40s.  The cold wind seeps into the house.

    I just about died at Home Depot with the wind whipping and my hands freezing as I looked at their trees.  I got two 5 gallon whips --- red maples ('Red Sunset').

    They were the perfect size to just fit in the Prius, they were not leafed out, so they were easy to handle.  Five feet tall, easy for me to carry.  $30 bucks.  Not the half price $14 bargains I was getting a few years ago in mid summer, but very reasonable and not root bound. 


    Lowe's had nothing.

    It was so cold I put off going outside to plant them.  Finally went out after lunch, complete with my parka on.  And of course once I got digging, it was wonderfully comfortable, I didn't mind the wind and I got both maples easily planted on the back hill where the now missing tuliptree had left a gap.

    I am happiest when planting these size trees on the back hill.

    Their size is perfect for me to handle, they grow beautifully in just a few years, and I am so pleased with the idea that I can add screening from the road.  My little forest.

    Need more!