Monday, September 30, 2013

A Jog in the Wall

Another dry, sunny, cool autumn day. Lovely. Temperatures were in the 70s, too cool in the shade and a little hot in the sun.

I made a mistake with the low stone wall (edging) along the east side. It runs right over a sprinkler head, and this morning, after the sprinklers went off, there was the plastic head popped up tall, with rocks canting to either side.

It had simply popped up, displaced the rocks and knocked them to either side.  So I made a jog in the wall.

Then I put down 3 bags of mulch (3 cu. feet each, so it took a third of a cubic yard to cover this border).

I also took out the Korean spirea 'Pink Parasols' that was crowded under the Rose of Sharon. I liked it more in theory than in practice.

It had pretty flowers, but they were brief, and the rest of the time it was nondescript. It was probably too shady on this side of the house under the Rose of Sharon, so its foliage never colored well in fall and it flopped.

I thought about moving it, but in the end I took it out. The roots went everywhere. Long snaky stretches of roots had to be ripped up. Now the area looks cleaner and more open, and the brick wall is visible. I'll let the deutzia fill in where the empty space is.

I did love this spirea and am sorry to have it gone.  It had pretty flowers, and the leaves held water droplets like St. Johnswort does.

It was pretty, but had outgrown the space, and was flopping. Too bad.

I think I will miss it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sense of Accomplishment

Another beautiful fall day. In the low 70s, still and sunny.

How much I am getting done! So far, since late August I have built a stone wall, moved the fothergillas in the gravel garden, expanded the east side border, built a stone edging wall there, planted new abelias, mukdenias, and now the dwarf deutzias.

I planted the three I had ordered from Lazy S and the two I had potted up from my own plants. But in the end I could have filled this whole area with layered cuttings from my mature Nikko deutzia gracilis plants nearby. There were many rooted cuttings to be had -- just dig them up and transplant! So I added several from my own plants and eventually they will fill this area as a mounding groundcover.

They will take several years. They are not fast growing, but when they fill in, they are dense and smother all weeds.

This east side has been a challenge from the beginning. All I want to do is hide the black waterproofing along the foundation (and bits of orange insulation that stick up too, and the black hose that runs along the house).

But every solution has been trouble. The area immediately slopes away steeply, and I need a lot of fill to grade this border up to cover the black waterrproofing. Added dirt and mulch just melt into the ground and never cover enough.

But this time I think the arching, foot tall deutzia will at least be tall enough to hide that edge of the foundation. And with the wider, stone edged border now, I was able to add 4 cartloads of soil to bring the level up a little more.

I think this looks more proportional and when the deutzia fills in it will hide what I want it to cover.

Now, here is what I still have left to do:
  • Plant 100 Whiteflower Farm daffodil bulbs on the back hill
  • Take out the Pink Parasols spirea that is crowding the Rose of Sharon -- you can see it here, not adding anything, and hiding the nice brick wall.
  • Move the carpet roses to that empty area, under the side of the deck.  
The roses reach out over the walk and are getting bigger and bigger. I prune them every week, and can't really keep them from eating the walkway. They need to be moved.
  • Move the rosa glauca to the dry creek bed.
  • Move the Swiss Stone pine to Drive By garden (where the rosa glauca is now)
  • Plant the additional rhus aromaticas (4) in Drive By garden.
  • Move the large rhus aromatica that is crowding the doublefile viburnum.
So much to do yet, but what a sense of accomplishment already.

Here are some happy pictures to end with today:

Nice. Really nice.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bush Clover Oddity

Yesterday was cloudy and a little grim looking, in the 60s. Today, to make up for it, the weather was fine and sunny and dry. The temperatures were in the 70s, a perfect fall day that even felt a little summery.

I planted 3 new dwarf abelias 'Fairy Dance' at the top of the new stone wall by the driveway. I could actually use two or three more to make a line of them that will hopefully drape over the wall a little. Then Jim and I glued the heart rock in place. . . . it fell out the other day.

I planted the additional mukdenia rossi plants around the gravel garden edge. The ones I saw at Cornell were quite large mounded plants. I hope mine look like that eventually.

Then I finished widening the east side border, got the extra crushed gravel we had left over and the remaining stones and built a little wall.

It's edging, really. Not high enough to be a wall but it used all the rocks that were left. I'll fill in with soil around the ends, add more behind it, and then plant the area up with the dwarf deutzias 'Nikko', which will spread out.

I like the curve, and I like the look of the stones even if they don't do much to hold the elevated soil back.

I'm really puzzled this year about the bush clover, Lespedeza Ido Shibori. It's a pretty, arching smallish shrub this year, with plenty of air space below, and open branching. Not many flowers. Last year it was a haystack. A big, overflowing fountain of branches and flowers.

Why is it just 2/3 the size this year? And why so few flowers? It certainly looks healthy, but it's so much smaller.
This year, in late September it is a small, open shrub with few flowers
Last year, in late September it was a giant arching mass with tons of tiny blooms
What's up with this?

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Lawn grass.  It grows where we don't want it and it won't grow where we do want it.

Another beautiful fall day, sunny and cool, in the 60s.

Jim and I dug up the huge platters of dead crabgrass and wall to wall weeds lining the curb at the roadside, and prepped the area with fresh soil, then planted grass seed.
Grow, grass!

In the afternoon I spent an hour digging out more sod along the east side to widen the border there.
Out, grass!


We really want the lawn to extend down to the road edge. All other lawns on the street have grass growing down to the curb, but ours did not. Our lawn ended about a foot short, and in that one foot strip crabgrass took over, creating an ugly solid edge between the lawn and the road curb.

We fixed it by killing off all the crabgrass, and now have planted seed. I hope it takes!

As for the east side border, I remove a little bit at a time, widening, shaping, and now I need to determine if there is enough room to add low stone edging, using the leftover rocks from the wall project.

Need to think on this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Upon Our Return

We are back from our week in Virginia and North Carolina.

We returned to sunny, cool, crisp fall weather. It rained an inch and a half the day before we got back home, so everything is well watered, and with the cool air it all looks good. Last night it got down to 39 degrees! Today was brilliantly sunny and in the 60s.

The meadow is bursting with white wood asters, purple asters and goldenrod, all flopping about.

This summer there was no Queen Anne's Lace for some reason. Just a few here and there. But the asters did not disappoint, they are looking wonderful.

Monticello was great -- I thoroughly enjoyed the guided tours. The Biltmore house was just excessive, but the gardens were a delight. And the last day, driving up Skyline Drive through the mountains was beautiful. Great trip. Here are highlights.

Now, back at home, I am in my element moving things around and digging stuff up in the comfortable dry weather.

I dug out the curve at the back of the gravel garden to make room for the two fothergillas, then moved them. They dug up easily, thank goodness.

Now, with the garden extended a little, the rounded shape looks better, and the little row of boxwoods is opened up so it can be seen.  A minor move, but an improvement to the curve of the bed, the space under the sourwood, and the look overall.

The fothergillas look small and dorky, partly because I had lopped them to keep them from overtopping the boxwood balls, but they will fill in and get large, forming a boundary at that back edge of the border.

I thought it would be a major job, but it wasn't.

Then I did some edging along the east side to expand that strip, now that the groundcover willows are out.  I took two cartloads of sod strips away, but so much more needs to be removed. The area needs to be a lot wider, and the question is  -- add rocks for a low wall?  I need to ponder what to do there.

Fall arrived on September 21 while we were away, and now color is showing in the maples and the sourwood and so many other plants. Autumn is here!

The anemones finished blooming, but the seed stalks are nice.

The Henryi clematis is reblooming, and the viticella clematis by the hummingbird feeder is ready to open new blooms too.

The hummingbirds are still here, two females (or perhaps juveniles, without any ruby throats).

They are crazy about the feeder and still visiting what remains on the Rose of Sharon, and swooping and diving all over the yard.

One hangs on the feeder instead of hovering at it. It looks weird, with her body clinging almost upside down while she feeds.

They will be gone soon.

After a week away it is nice to be home, and especially nice to have such beautiful weather. Everything looks so wonderful at the Sostman Estate -- who needs Biltmore and Frederick Law Olmsted's genius and acres of grounds when we have such pleasures right here!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Strawberries Forever

A beautiful early fall day, cool and sunny and dry. The high today was only 70 degrees.

The strawberries are producing fruit again. I got a bowl twice this size the other day and had them sliced for dessert.

About half of what is ripening is being eaten by something. I'm not sure what. All during the harvest earlier this year I saw no signs of critters and no damage to the berries. Now I do, but there are still a small bowlful for me every day.

It's amazing to have sweet fresh strawberries in September.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roots All The Way To China

Love the blue plumbago in a pot by the deck
Wait a few days and the weather changes. We went from hot and sticky to cool yesterday, and chilly today, barely in the 60s and partly cloudy.

The cool weather got me back on track doing chores in the garden. I moved two blueberries in the meadow over to where the other four were planted, so now all of them are in a small stand in one place.

Digging, moving, filling with dirt -- feels good again!

Then I decided to dig up a few of the salix yezoalpina on the east side. Maybe put them in pots until I could figure out what to do with them. They get so browned and crisp and look so bad all season, that I knew I needed to move them somewhere else and start over with another groundcover along the east side.

So I stood over the patch, shovel in hand, and thought "I hope they're easy enough to pop out of the soil. Probably have shallow roots, that's why they don't get enough moisture here. I'll just wiggle one up out of the dirt."

Ha. Not. The roots go down to China. They spread enormously, running out four or five feet. The main plants developed fat, iron hard roots that all bound together into an impenetrable trunk. It was a difficult, shoulder wrenching, body damaging job to wrestle those plants out.

Obviously there was no way to save any to put in a pot or move elsewhere. They were ripped, torn, hacked out and manhandled.
(Honestly, that Dawn viburnum looks ridiculous, all splayed out and waving about. Sheeesh.)

The soil all along here was surprisingly dry and fine, despite 3/4 of an inch of rain the other day. Everywhere else the garden is wet, but as I tore the alpine willows out, I found very dry, loose dirt.

Do the willows drink it all up and still suffer? They look so bad all summer, once spring goes by.

Initially I had high hopes for this plant. The leaves were glossy green and interesting, and the plants spread out easily.

They had funny fuzzy blooms, and the first fall they turned a buttery yellow color. Perfect groundcover for this spot.

In spring they covered all the bare ground under the goofy looking Dawn viburnum with rich green foliage. Exactly what I wanted.

But when the weather got hot they browned badly, and never recovered when it cooled down. Last year the same thing, I kept hoping it was just a one-off from too much heat or sun. I watered them. I watched.

Ick. They stayed crisp and ugly all year, despite cooler weather and what was certainly plenty of moisture all this year.

Time to change up the area.

So I thought I could take them out and try them somewhere else, but in the process they all were sacrificed. No way to save them with those roots that reach all the way down to China.

My plan now is to put in Deutzia gracilis 'Nikko', the pretty ground covering dwarf deutzia that works so well for me in other areas. It is a dense grower so it will smother the area, it stays crisp and green and a little more elegant looking than the willows were. Really pretty white flowers in spring, and decent fall color.

Although they don't spread as quickly as the willows, they do fill out an area after several years and they seem fine in different soils, and in varying amounts of sun or shade.

In summer the deutzia is plain and green and not very noticeable, but that's fine for this area, where I just want coverage. Here it is spreading nicely under the Rose of Sharon, just to the right of the strip I want to cover, so eventually the deutzia will be all along this side of the house.

I ordered 3 from Lazy S to plant later this month and I have two rooted cuttings from my own plants. It's easy to make more too. I want to make the whole strip a little wider and let these woody ground shrubs cover it all up.

The mystery is why the soil is so dry there. Will it be ok for a big stand of dwarf deutzia? Was it the willows that were parching the area dry?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Off Topic

Humid and sticky again today, hard to do anything outside. So different than the long stretch of cool weather we had in August and early September.

Ok, this is off topic. I'm feeling unsettled, and part of it is that I spent 8 months growing my hair almost to a chin length bob, went for a trim along the back and bottom, and now I'm right back to the beginning, with a pixie cut, layered, chopped straight across the nape of the neck and with reverse gradation up the back of the head like a men's cut.

I guess it's called a "blocked nape". I hate it and it is not at all what I thought she meant by shaping the back a little.

The front and top make a mushroom cap shape, bunchy over the ears. I hate that too.

To compensate for the full part out over the ears, she insists I have to style way more volume at the crown. I really need to work it, mousse it, frequently re-fluff it with my fingers, and avoid any breezes. No volume flattening hats in winter, and stay out of the humidity in summer or it will go flat.

Really? I need to work my life around my hair?

After all the time to grow it out, I strongly told her that I don't want to fight my hair any more. It wants to drape, it has no volume, so let it fall from the crown in a bob with a long side swept bang. Tuck the length behind the ears. I'm almost there. No more short sassy styles to make me look younger that need so much work to fluff and maintain.

As soon as she heard "my hair falls flat" she started in on me, not hearing any of the part about working with my hair's natural condition:

Volume?? Here's the problem, you aren't doing it right! We need PRODUCT. More product, I have a new greasy mousse to try. Use more, use just this amount, don't use so much, use it exactly this way in the precise amount. You don't use it right, that's the problem. If you did it right your hair would look better.
OK, it's Helen Mirren -- but how hard is this,
just some feathering at the bottom, and
let the hair fall as it will from the crown.

Volume?? You aren't blowing it out correctly. Your brush is the wrong size, even though you bought the one I told you to. Still wrong. . . you always do it wrong. It has to be 20 minutes with your arms over your head, not the 10 minutes you do til your arms get too tired. Use the brush this way, you do not have the right technique. Don't use a brush at all, just fingers, that's the problem. You always do it wrong and that's the issue. If you blew your hair dry the right way it would look better.

Volume?? We need to razor cut it. Thin it out till it is skimpy, then use product and the brush and the dryer to fluff it back up. Shave the back and cut the nape straight across.

If you did your hair more skillfully it wouldn't look so bad.

What's so offputting is that I get this same harangue every time I go. I am told every single time that I don't have any idea how to blow dry my hair the right way, and then I get full bore instructions. For 14 years now.

Really? It's never the cut?

After 14 years of faithfully following her advice and dutifully working the style she gives me for half an hour every day with brushes and mousse and sprays and rollers and after the years of being harangued about technique, my hair simply looks unstyled when I do it. Twenty minutes of blow drying, brush rolling, fussing for lift at the crown and volume at the roots produces a look like I'm on a camping trip without amenities.

Clean but flat.

For all the work I put in, I don't want to look like I have a boy's haircut. I don't want a pixie. I don't want what bulk there is squatting over my ears and a straight blocked nape in back.

I want to be able to wear a hat in winter without worrying about my hair going flat (or even wear a hat to cover a bad haircut).

I want a simple feminine chin length bob with some feathering at the very bottom so it comes down around my neck. Appropriate for my older age, my gray hair, and the limp nature of the hair I have, not the hair she wants me to have.

I now have to start all over again growing it out for the next 8 months ---

-- and get a new hair stylist after more than a decade with one who tells me how utterly inept I am. I think I am finally done feeling bad that I don't know how to style my hair.

I do, however, feel bad that I didn't find a new hairdresser 13 years ago.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Not Today

HIgh 80s today, and humidity is 81%. After all the weeks of cool damp conditions and all the days of cool dry sunshine, this is a blast of hot sticky weather.

After our stone wall building, and laying big rock steppers, I felt so ready to tackle new garden expansions, moving some plants, and other big projects. I have so many plans.

Not today.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


This morning was dank and dreary, spitting a very light rain, in the low 60s. As I sat on our new porch drinking my coffee around 8 a.m., I got thinking "gee, the new katsura got buffeted around a little in the breezy conditions yesterday. I think it needs staking."

Just as that thought crossed my mind, three men from Bartlett appeared at the side of the porch, with guy wires and stakes, and proceeded to stake the tree!


They did it with very thin wire, and stakes that are underground, no menace to lawnmowers or clumsy feet. There are three wires, although you only see two from any angle. The wires are very loose, and cushioned around the trunk with black rubber collars.

Later in the morning I started putting the green mesh plastic trunk protectors around all the young trees that are vulnerable to antler rub in fall. I always hate doing this, it makes me feel under siege or something.

I got most of the yard trees done, and several in the meadow, but still need to do a few more. I wrapped the linden in the cul de sac -- the linden is a magnet for male deer and they have rubbed raw patches every year, so far without killing it.

I hate seeing the wrap around my nicest trees in fall. Here is the blackhaw viburnum that I limbed up so prettily. The mesh wrap is not terribly obvious, but it is there, and I really would like a clean look when the tree colors in fall. But I need to exercise all caution.  Bleeah.

One thing that concerns me is the weeping black wetness at the base of my beautiful Bloodgood Japanese maple. It is likely a bacterial infection from some damage to the bark, but what caused the injury? And what to do about it? And will it kill the tree, which so far is leafy and gorgeous and looks fine?

I  mean, really, it looks healthy and glorious -- could this injury to the trunk be fatal? OMG.

I e-mailed Bartlett with a picture, asking if I should be concerned. More on this to come.

The problem with the Japanese maple just added to a heavy, lingering sense of anxiety. Foreboding, sadness, I dunno.  The tree, the gloomy weather. . . .

. . . the fact that we invited friends for dinner, set last Friday for the date, got an affirmative but underwhelming response. Then we had to cancel because another friend's mother died and calling hours were last Friday evening.  I e-mailed to change the dinner date, but got no response. Called and left a message, gave alternate dates and finally got an e-mail back that they understood and would let us know what alternate dates worked.

Nothing for six days now. Did they forget they were invited? Do they not want to come -- there were very terse and uncharacteristic responses from them, when I got any at all.  Urp.

. . .  and the fact that I sent Greg money for his new truck, then got a text message that he had buyer's remorse and decided not to go ahead, and made some fixes on the old one instead. Okay. I e-mailed with a question about his uncle's funeral and about his decision on the truck, but no response after five days. Another urp.

I feel adrift.

Weird stuff -- the inn where we are staying next week on our road trip to Virginia and North Carolina sent an e-mail thanking us for visiting recently and hoped we had a good time. We don't arrive until next Monday.

Tamarack Lodge at Mammoth, where we are booked for Christmas, showed our arrival date on my Master Card bill as August 13.

Weird stuff, unsettling.

Changeable end of season weather.

I feel strange and unmoored.

(plus the ultimate kicker -- after growing my hair out since January -- over 8 months now -- I went in for a haircut today and instead of trimming it as requested, she simply cut it all back to a short boy's cut like before. Kind of a bowl cut this time. Cute on an 8 year old. I have to start over, another 6 - 8 months to go to grow it out again. . . how's that for feeling unsettled and sorry for myself!)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Feels Great

I'm tired and it feels great. A beautiful breezy, cool day with sunshine in the afternoon. Temperatures in the mid 70s.

A great day to do another project with rocks!

The biggest fieldstones that would not fit in the wall were hauled out to the dry creekbed to use as steppers.

They were heavy to lift and wiggle into place, and all the extra gravel dust had to be hauled out there too, bucket by bucket. Jim and I dug out the depressions for the rocks to sit in, scooped stone dust and worked it for the shape, then manhandled six big flat stones into place.

Really manhandled. They don't look that big but they were.

It was hands and knees work, and very tiring.

But there is nothing better than coming in at 3 in the afternoon to shower and clean up, so achy and tired after a day of real physical work outdoors. I was sweaty and dirty, but the air is dry and comfortable.

It feels so good at the end of the day.

I like how the steppers look leading to the bridge and around the corner.

The big one set in the grass looks a little high, but the lawn is cut away and tamped down around it. When the grass perks up and grows a couple inches it will come in over the sides of that rock.

I still want to add more in the grass, leading out into the yard and between Meadow's Edge and the Blueberry Garden. The big ones are used now, but there are smaller ones that I could work into a random pattern laid in the grass.
At the far end where the path drifts into the dry creek bed, I need to set the last two small steppers more firmly, and I need to shore up the bank of the creek bed right at that spot -- I have plenty of small rocks. Maybe add a small cascading plant there?

Other projects for another day. Right now I am tired, it is the end of the day, the breeze is nice and it all feels great.