Saturday, July 25, 2009

So today I struck the first blow in a task I have really not been looking forward to: rejuvenating the lawn.

I hate lawns, for the record. A lawn to me is a big fat waste of space, resources, and effort; also persnickety and generally a pain in the ass to maintain. I plan to get rid of as much lawn as I possibly can over the years to come, but I've got enough going on in the back yard right now that the front is just going to have to wait, especially since I don't want to annoy the neighbours with my flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants hodgepodge of n00bish garden experiments. I will do my early messing around in the back yard and plan the front more carefully.

BUT in the meantime, there is still this sea of grass to deal with out front. Well, sea of weeds, really. I don't know what is going on, none of our neighbours have anything like the weed problem we do. Maybe I just don't mow often enough. In any case, my evil scheme going forward is as follows: weed like a madwoman; actually mow the lawn once in a blue moon; and dethatch, aerate, topdress, and overseed next month. Then we'll see what happens. If it still looks like crap in the spring, I will throw up my hands and declare it a lost cause.

So today I went out and bought a "Grampa's Weeder" from Lee Valley, one of the best garden purchases I have made all year. This thing uses minimal effort but still makes short work of plantains, dandelions, and even those bastard wood violets. If it has a central root (as opposed to, say, something like creeping charlie, which roots everywhere it touches the freaking ground) you can use this baby to wreak havoc and devastation upon it.

I then went out and spent 2h digging up all the plantains and dandelions and many additional nameless weeds. (It drives me crazy not knowing the names of weeds. Not that knowing what they are really gives me any useful information - it's a weed, right, what more do you need to know? But somehow it's so much more satisfying to yank it out when you know what it's called. "Aha, you bastard such-and-such, I have you now!!") The difference all this diligent effort made is depressingly subtle. Tomorrow I will muster out there again and tackle the rest of the wood violets and the nameless yellow-flowering stuff that's all over the front third of the yard. And also the goddamn creeping charlie, I suppose, although I'm not sure there's much point. What a thug of a plant that stuff is.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In honour of our houseiversary, I present a "compare and contrast" edition of the picture post!


Alas, I didn't take pictures of this when we first moved in, but for future reference, here's now:

Not much change from this perspective, really. Except I managed to kill the hanging basket plants. Oh well, this is the longest I've ever kept such things alive, so I'm not too badly dismayed.

Closer up, however, there's been a few changes at least:

Ah, mulch, how I ♥ you. Also, most of the herbaceous plants in here are my additions, except the daylily. When we first moved in all the rest of that was daylilies and violets.


Progress! Looking around the yard from west to east:




Compare to this time last year:

Details of the beds:

Sun bed

Wall bed

Corner bed (Extremely weedy and in need of attention)

Side bed (Needs to be mostly redone - dammit)

The patio thyme is growing slowly, but it's growing:

These are now confirmed as Bachelor's Buttons:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today I hit Ritchie's Feed & Seed out in the other end of town. I had plans to stop by Peter Knippel Nursery too, but as it turned out Ritchie's had more than enough stuff I couldn't resist. To make up for my binge buying I am once again imposing a two-week plant-buying freeze. No more plants for me until August 2!

Much like eating an entire box of chocolate chip cookies, however, it was SO worth it. The spoils:

* Lucifer crocosmia - YET ANOTHER sun plant, but I've actually had my eye on this one for a while. Besides, the foliage makes a nice contrast in the back of the sun bed.

* golden oregano - couldn't resist the combination of the bright chartreuse colour and the texture of the plant.

* Black Scallop ajuga - more funky ground cover.

* toad lilies - another one I've had my eye on for some time. They bloom late, for an added bonus.

* Blue Butterfly delphiniums - delicate foliage and luminous blue flowers.

* Black Knight delphinium - even floppier than the ones I already have, but the blue-purple colour was completely irresistable. The picture below doesn't do it justice, this plant just glows.

* Japanese Blood Grass - I found the forest grass I was looking for but it looked kind of ratty in person; this stuff was much cooler.

* Ice Dance sedge grass - also cooler than the forest grass.

* Drumstick primrose - have been keeping an eye out for this stuff, having read about it in magazines.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walking down the bike path on Friday night, Corey and I took a little side-route that we'd seen but never actually used before, and in so doing we happened across the most beautiful garden. At my exclamations of delight, a passing gentleman told us that this was actually maintained not by the city but by a private individual living in a nearby condo.

I'm pretty sure some of the gorgeous plants I saw were mallows, which confirms that I need some in spite of their reputedly near-invasive self-seeding. There were also these gorgeous pink poppies everywhere. A google search suggests that they were actually opium poppies (papaver somniferum), another self-seeding annual.

In my googling I found this website - I don't think I share this person's passion for organic gardening, but I'm happy to buy from a local source. I also note mention of an event called "Seedy Saturday" that happens practically in our backyard - will have to keep an eye out for that next year!

I've also been thinking about shade plants, since I have acres of shady beds to fill. Leafing through a Fine Gardening magazine, I see repeated mentions of a Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra, which makes for nice bright green foliage. I think I actually saw some in Kanata earlier this week but I wasn't sure of the latin name at the time and left it there, and now am kind of kicking myself. And fine, FINE, I will probably give in and get some hostas, but for the record it will be under duress. And I will only be bothered with the nice colourful ones.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The finished wall!


Also, some blooms (pardon the flash-lighting, it was getting late when I took these):

David Austin rose, continuing in gorgeousness:

Cleome. Have I mentioned how delighted I am with these, despite their annualness? If I can track down some of those variegated pink ones next year my happiness will be complete.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tonight, after I planted the juniper, the piles of extra rocks sitting around the yard were suddenly so annoying in their messiness that I spent an hour or so starting to pile them into a dry-laid wall, as maundered about below. For a snap decision this is working out gloriously: it's gotten rid of about half the rock piles so far, and it looks fantastic. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies in it, which I may try to stuff with plants, but which will no doubt also shelter snakes and toads and all kinds of good garden critters. Also, I hear that you can paint rocks with some sort of yogurt solution to encourage moss - will have to double check that Fine Gardening article again.

How solidly this wall is constructed is anyone's guess, especially since I remember hearing that a dry-laid wall actually takes considerable skill to build, and I have none such (as the blog title notes, just enthusiasm). Well, if it falls over on the hydrangeas, no loss there, right?

As mentioned, I would looooooove to have a gorgeous copper fountain in front of this wall, where it would make a stunning centerpiece for the whole yard. The trick there is that the fountains I have my eye on require a power source, which would involve burying a line in conduit all the way across the yard from the house - a.k.a. total, abject pain in the ass. I'll have to ask if there's some way to substitute a solar or battery powered pump.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I've been making a mellow end to the evening with strongbow and a garden magazine - specifically, a special issue of Garden Gate called "Easy Weekend Gardening". Being American, it's peppered with irrelevancies for my situation (so annoying when a plant catches your eye and then the caption says "ha ha! Not hardy past Zone 9!") but less so than, say, most Better Homes & Gardens publications I've skimmed. And I happened across a couple of scheme-inspiring points.

* It claims that tree peonies can take part shade, since they flower early in the year and hence can get the sun they need before other trees leaf out. I think I may have the perfect setting for that under the apple trees. Then again, the intarwebs don't seem to think tree peonies bloom THAT much earlier than herbaceous peonies, and I'm pretty sure it's too shady there for the herbaceous kind. Hmmm. Worth pondering.

* I've been needing a use for all the rocks left over from the patio. A little dry-laid wall might be just the thing - in the middle bed, in front of the hydrangeas and spirea, maybe. And then I could start sedums and thyme and such growing in the cracks. Wouldn't that be an awesome backdrop for one of those gorgeous copper fountains I've been coveting!

Monday, July 13, 2009

To illustrate

Here's the sun bed as it stands:


And here are my preliminary schemes as maundered about below (1 = blue star juniper; 2 = sarah bernhardt peony; 3 = prairie joy rose; devil = a dandelion):

Took advantage of a late-season sale to snap up another rhododendron and a candelabra primrose. Two shrubby things also caught my eye - kind of surprisingly, usually I am not a big fan of junipers:

Blue Star

Japanese Dwarf Garden Juniper

The second one is low-growing but spreads up to 6', which is way bigger than I have any use for. Alas. I might be able to pop a Blue Star into the sun bed, though, since it's a slow grower and eventually maxes out at about 3' across and 2'-3' high. It could be a nice "structural" addition to that bed, especially with its lovely colour and texture, but I'm not totally sure whether it fits in my wild and crazy palette.

Some thoughts on the intarwebs:

Try to plant 'wild' plants or their relatives that associate well with junipers, such as heather (Erica and Calluna), phylodoce, Gaultheria, Pernettya, dwarf rhododendrons, Vaccinium, ferns and a whole range of creeping, herbaceous and shrubby alpine plants. Creeping thymes in particular associate well with junipers, as do sedums. Large rocks strategically placed can be very effective in this kind of garden, as can old logs for a more 'woodlandy' feel.

Well, ferns, thyme and sedum I can definitely do. Here's somebody else's rather lovely sedum/juniper combination, with some ornamental grass thrown in for good measure:

Elsewhere I see a suggestion that the foliage looks good next to peonies. That I could do; in fact I'm going to have to move the peony on the east wall over to the sun bed come fall. Fine Gardening puts it with roses, and likewise I have a rose I'm going to have to transplant. Hmmmm! This begins to sound promising.

The sun bed is actually starting to fill up, I think. I want to leave some space for the few annuals I have any patience for, after all. Next year I will have to concentrate on the part-sun beds, which are much barer, and will be more so once I move all the stuff that's stupidly sited there.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

With the latest issue of my gardening magazine came a catalogue for Breck's Bulbs. Oh lord, another plant catalogue. Including an early ordering discount coupon, no less. I can hear my wallet wailing already.

Shopping list:

Camassia Quamash, which just looks funky.

Scarlet Majesty tulips ("peony" double tulips - I saw these in somebody's garden and they are just stunning.)

French Lace tulips, also doubles.

Since I adored the two globemaster alliums I planted last fall, I'm going to get an additional zillion alliums of all different colours and sizes, including blue.

I am also toying with the idea of picking up some crocuses. I was not too fussed about these before, and planting 40 bulbs seems a little labour-intensive. But then this year a clutch of them came up in the neighbour's garden, and I was insanely jealous of his having flowers so very early in the spring.
Plant spoils du jour, courtesy of Canadian Tire:

Rock Cress


This last, it turns out, is a tropical plant, therefore an annual. Boo. HowEVer, Fine Gardening has a nice article about how to overwinter such persnickety creatures:

In late summer, I taper off the supplemental watering and fertilizing of shrubby plants with fleshy stems and encourage them to slow their growth. Just before the first hard frost, I cut them back gently and haul them to the basement. That’s it. A few will eventually drop their leaves, which I clean up when I get the chance.

Apparently the trick is to store them somewhere the temperature is cold but still above freezing. I don't think my basement qualifies, unfortunately, but he mentions that an attic might do it. I could give that a shot, I guess, but would have to find some way to remind myself that it's up there.

My main adventure today has been spreading mulch. Six 3-cu-ft bags did a nice job of tidying up the front garden and also the area around the climbing rose and the irises in the back corner. I'll be interested to see how well it works; it certainly looks much nicer this way. I also knocked a few items off the maintenance list - chopped down a chunk of a weed tree overhanging from the neighbour's yard (with his kind permission); sprayed Ed Lawrence's sneaky soap and water mix on a few plants that were looking suspiciously puckery around the top leaves, suggesting aphids; set the David Austin rose against a nice cedar trellis I snapped up on my shopping trip.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

* I seem to have hit the midsummer maintenance plateau, which is a little depressing, but I have gotten an awful lot done this year, I think, so progress is progress. I will bide my time for the fall perennial clearances.
* I am doing better with having things blooming later in the season. Sun is helpful that way, since most shade plants are spring-flowering.
* The cleome is just about flowering and is going to be stunning - definitely planting that again!!
* I spent a little while weeding in the front yard; doesn't feel like it made much difference. MULCH MULCH MULCH how I need you desperately. I think I will go to Canadian Tire tomorrow and grab a few bags, since all I would need for the front yard is 18 cubic feet. Next spring I will fork out the delivery fee and get a few cubic yards deposited in the driveway, thus getting the drop on the weeds right at the start of the season.
* I should also get a trellis of some kind for the David Austin rose.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More flowers!

David Austin rose is on its way. It smells sooooo good. Have to get this thing on a proper trellis so as to show these off.

Delphiniums - so this is why their floppiness is proverbial. Would be stunning if I'd used longer stakes to prop them up.

Begonias: STILL GOING. So this is why people plant annuals. I'm not thrilled with the performance of my red geraniums, but these things kind of rock.

This daylily is almost as tall as me.

Mimuli. ARGH, I thought these were supposed to be taller. Will have to move them closer to the front come fall.

I'm not totally sure whether these are bachelors' buttons or cupid's dart.

A white rose campion - recent Canadian Tire purchase.